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The Evolution of HIV/AIDS in Uganda

The break out of the deadly HIV/ AIDS disease was one of the greatest challenges faced by President Yoweri Museveni’s new Government in 1986.

Besides dealing with military insurgencies in the North and East, the central parts of the country were being ravaged by a new pandemic, which found fertile ground in a collapsed health system and was spreading across the country like wildfires.

The disease broke out in the central district of Rakai and people of sexually attractive age were dying emaciated, coughing and looking slim, hence the name “sirimu.”

The epidemic ravaged the country that was just emerging out of the civil war.

Unfortunately, many people did not understand the disease and mostly thought of it as witchcraft.

There was an urgent need for political commitment at the highest level to dive into the problem and sensitise the people about the disease and partner with the international community to curb the challenge.

President Museveni openly admitted that they could not handle the pandemic without external assistance.

“All this is the magnitude of the problem, the traditional insurance systems such as extended families are becoming overstretched and can no longer be expected to cop without external assistant,” said Museveni.

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Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the current Prime Minister called World Health Organization (WHO) and Medical Research Council of Britain (MRC) to render support to Uganda.

It looked like he had opened a can of worms and all of a sudden the world opened up about the pandemic.

The next action was the establishment of Uganda AIDS Control Programme within the Ministry of Health coupled with Government policy of openness in confronting the pandemic. The strategy generated financial resources and mobilized the global communities to take action.

From the onset, prevention of the infection among the sexually attractive adult population was the cardinal concern of the Ugandan government.

The foundation for this was laid in 1987 with the ABC strategy. That is Abstinence, focusing on the young people, Being faithful to your partner for those in marriage and use of Condoms consistently.

Through these initiatives, Uganda was able by the early 2000s to cut the HIV prevalence from 16% to just 5.

In the years that followed however, these gains were eroded, and the prevalence jumped to 7%.

In 2014, the United Nations launched the 90 – 90 – 90 HIV/ AIDS targets to have 90% of all people know their HIV status, 90% of those who have the virus enrol on treatment immediately and 90% of those on treatment have their viral load suppressed, all to be achieved by the year 2020.

On December 9th 2019, the Ministry of Health trained hundreds of persons to conduct a survey across the country to evaluate Uganda’s performance of 90 – 90 – 90 targets by next year 2020.

Dr Wilford Kirungi, a medical epidemiologist AIDS control Program in the Ministry of Health told Chimpreports on 9th December 2019 that they want to see how far Uganda has reached by 2020 and plan for post 2020 agenda.

“Yes we want to see how far we have come by 2020. This survey will help do that, then we use the information we collect to plan for post 2020 agenda. We will continue monitoring through surveys and other processes on how far we are achieving post 2020 agenda,” said Kirungi.

However, on 27th November 2019, the Director General, Uganda AIDS Commission Dr Nelson Musoba said that Uganda was performing excellently and revealed that the previous survey indicated that the country was standing at 89% for people who know their HIV status, 90% of those with the virus are on treatment and 90% of those on treatment have had their viral load suppressed.

“We believe that by the time we evaluate at the end of 2020 when we should have reached the targets, we will have achieved and even surpassed them,” said Musoba.

On December 11th 2019, Musoba told journalists at the office of the President in Kampala that as a way of filling the gap of HIV/ AIDS response in the country, Ministry of Finance and Uganda AIDS Commission passed a guideline that all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies allocate 0.1% of their budget towards fighting the epidemic.

“It is called HIV mainstreaming Policy and it’s about protecting employees and also communities within which they work to ensure that they have information and they don’t contract HIV,” Musoba added.

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