In line with Uganda’s target to reduce the prevalence of HIV and eradicate the virus by 2030, the Minister of Health, Dr. Ruth Aceng has proposed innovative ways tailored to meet the needs of men.
Aceng says that whereas men are the transmitters of the HIV virus, existing statistics have indicated that medical interventions have not catered for this section of the population.
The Minister made the remarks on Thursday while closing a two day Joint Annual AIDS Review organized by the Uganda AIDS Commission at Hotel Africana.
“It is clear that in our response to HIV, we have reached out more to women and men have been left out in the picture. Our survey results show that more men are dying from HIV and few men have enrolled for treatment,” Dr. Aceng said.
“The question you have to ask yourself is – who is transmitting HIV? From the trends of HIV which is clearly known in Uganda to be heterosexual, it means that the men who are the transmitters are not being reached to,” the Minister added.
Basing on statistics, Minister Aceng revealed that men are known to rarely go to health facilities for either HIV treatment or other illnesses compared to the women, stressing the need for specific tailored programs for the men.
Findings from the 2016 Uganda Population HIV Impact Assessment (UPHI) place the total number of Ugandans living with HIV at 1.3 million.
The same report shows that prevalence of HIV among adults aged 15-49 stands at 6% whereas among children under age 5, prevalence is at 0.5%.
In women, prevalence remains higher (7.5%) compared to men at (4.3%), according to UPHI findings.
“We have to put our heads together to find appropriate ways designed to meet the needs of men so that they can be encouraged to go and access treatment. Men need to be part of the solution not to leave the responsibility entirely to women,” the Health Minister said on Thursday.
In the next five years, Dr. Aceng said the Ministry of Health and its partners will engage men across the country to find out what interventions are responsive to their needs.
She appealed for more resources to scale up interventions and expand services that will target high burden groups; age group 40- 49, adolescents and South Western Uganda which recorded the highest prevalence rates.
Representing the development partners at Thursday’s meeting, Patricia Mengech who chairs the AIDS Development Partners Group said that although Uganda’s HIV prevalence has steadily reduced from 7.3% in 2011 to 6% in 2016, more efforts are required to fast track the 2030 goal.
“60% of the people living with HIV have suppressed viral load. With scaling up of the national viral load, this percentage is expected to go up. But more needs to be done including reducing stigma, economic empowerment, condom use, timely access to age appropriate HIV information and ensuring young people stay in school,” Mengech said.