Mother-to-child HIV infections in Uganda have fallen to an all-time low of 4,000 in 2017 up from 25,000 in 2011, First Lady and Education minister Janet Museveni has said.
At the launch of the ‘Free to Shine’ campaign, an initiative by African first ladies aimed at ending childhood HIV/Aids at Imperial Royale hotel, Ms Museveni also said new HIV infections have declined by 125,000 since 2013.
“Estimates from the ministry of Health indicate that the number of new HIV infections fell to an all-time low of approximately 5,000 in 2017 down from 130,000 in 2013. The vertical mother-to-child new HIV infections among HIV exposed babies also continued to fall and reached approximately 4,000 in 2016, building on the 86 per cent reduction in new vertical HIV infections during 2010-2015,” she said.
The first lady added that Uganda’s amount of HIV/Aids related deaths declined in the same time period, reaching a milestone in 2017.
“In the same vein, Aids-related death continued on a steady decline, reaching an all-time low of approximately 22,000 in 2017. It is clear that Uganda is on course to control the HIV epidemic and to end Aids as a public health threat by 2030,” she said.
Much of this development, Janet attributed it to the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) program which has given more mothers treatment, secured less new infections in newborns, and averted new infections.
“We moved from 52 per cent of the HIV positive pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV receiving lifelong ART to 97 per cent. We achieved an 86 per cent reduction in new HIV infections among children, meaning that hundreds of children were born without HIV. And we averted over 120,000 new infections and saw infections in children reduce from 25,000 per year to about 4,000 currently,” she said. Though Uganda has improved in bringing down the amount of people with HIV/Aids, the goal has not yet been reached.
“In spite of these gains, the burden of HIV and Aids remains significantly high. Information from the ministry of Health indicates that approximately 1.3 million people are currently living with HIV and AIDS in Uganda,” she said.
Sarah Opendi Acheing, the state minister for Health (General Duties) said, the launch aimed at improving relations with different leaders in society and the new campaign aims at ending HIV/Aids. Opendi said, the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) enrolment was at a 97 per cent but were suffering from a client drop in the antenatal and breastfeeding periods of its participants.
“Our data indicate that two months post ART enrolment, our programs are not able to account for at least 20 per cent of women in the critical antenatal and breastfeeding phases. This is probably due to factors in society such as stigma or lack of support,” she said.
“This is a health seeking behaviour problem which could result from factors including inadequate support from male partners, non-disclosure of HIV status to spouses because of stigma and fear of violence, lack of finances to travel for care, and long distances,” she added.