The Minister In-charge of the Presidency Hon Esther Mbayo has today warned of the increased engagement in risky sexual behavior among various Ugandan demographics which has deterred the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Hon. Mbayo was addressing the press today Monday August 10, at the Media Centre on the state of HIV prevalence and art coverage in the various districts of Uganda ahead of the forthcoming Annual Joint AIDS Review scheduled for August 26 to 27, 2020.
In her address, the Minister noted that Uganda has made significant progress in reducing the HIV incidence (the number of new infections), prevalence (the total number of infections) and AIDS related deaths.
“In the late 80’s and early 90’s, HIV prevalence was high at 18% in the general population. It is now at 6.8% for women and 4.2% for men; 2.8% among young women and 1.1% among young men,” Mbayo said.
“There are approximately 1,400,000 people living with HIV and 1,200,000 of these are on treatment,” she disclosed, adding that there are 51,007 new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths now stand at 19,500.
According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, UNAIIDS and Ministry of Health sub-national data and the recently released Global HIV and AIDS statistics, Uganda is among the front runners in reducing new HIV infections even though the burden remains huge.
Some of the districts with high HIV prevalence include; Kalangala at 18%, Mbarara at 15.2%, Gulu at 14.3%, Kabarole at 14.2%, Masaka at 11.5% among others.
Districts with medium prevalence include; Kabale at 6.0%, Ntungamo at 5.6%, Isingiro at 4.8%, Rukiga at 4.9%, Luuka 2.7% among others.
Districts with low HIV prevalence include; Nabilatuk at 0.2%, Karenga at 0.6%, Amudat at 0.8%, Yumbe at 1.2%, Kween at 1.4% among others.
Despite the noticeable strides in the government’s “Pledge to End AIDS as a public health threat by 2030”, the Minister noted that there are some major setbacks straining the efforts and measures being implemented.
“Despite numerous HIV prevention interventions, there is increased engagement in risky sexual behavior including multiple sexual partners, low condom use among those engaging in high risk sex and decline in age of sexual debut,” Mbayo stated.
Other challenges, she said, include widespread self-stigma, low uptake of couple testing, and significant proportions of people, especially men living with HIV, who do not know their HIV status.
Mbayo also underscored the significant link between HIV infection and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) noting “survivors of sexual violence seldom access HIV preventive services such as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) necessary for HIV prevention.”
Among the measures being implemented to reinforce the fight against the scourge, the Minister said, include disseminating messages for HIV Prevention in order to result in significant and sustainable declines in new HIV infections and optimizing programme efficiencies to focus on reaching the underserved sub-populations.
“While it was correct for HIV prevention programming to focus largely on urban hotspot areas where most new infections are expected, the country also needs to pay attention to the vulnerabilities and risk factors in the general population,” she emphasized.
Uganda AIDS Commission will be convening the Annual Joint AIDS Review on August 26 to 27 as per the provisions of the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan for 2015/2020 in the ‘Ending AIDS by 2030’ bid.