There has been a decline in the HIV infection within the country due to new interventions that prevent HIV transmission.
Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the HIV/Aids programme in the ministry of Health, has said interventions such as antiretroviral therapy (ART), circumcision, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the use of ABC methods (Abstaining from sex, Being faithful to partner and always using a Condom) are the cause.
“Due to new interventions that prevent HIV since 2012, we have been having consistent decline in the number of new infections for years. From a high number of about 130,000 new infections every year then to 50,000 new infections in 2017,” he said.
Musinguzi said these words recently at Lourdel Towers in Kampala during the remarks to announce commemoration the World Aids day. Musinguzi said the death toll has also reduced from about 50,000 in 2010 to 20,000 in 2017.
He said because of the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMCT) campaign, the risk of transmitting HIV from mother to unborn babies during pregnancy and to newborns after birth has also reduced from 28,000 in 2012 to fewer than 4,000 babies in 2017.
“By percentage, between 2010 and 2016, EMCT has led to about 86 per cent reduction. This was due to our new HIV interventions, primary prevention, treatment for all HIV-infected pregnant women for life and providing care and treatment to people infected,” he said.
Musinguzi said although there is a decline of HIV infection in the general population, new infections are increasing in young women and girls aged from 15 to 24.
“About 34 percent of the new infections are happening in young girls aged between 15 and 24. These girls are getting new infections from older men and this is why we want men to come for testing and start treatment to reduce their viral load. We shall make sure our HIV prevention programmes target girls, young women and men to prevent HIV transmission,” he said.
Musinguzi said there is a big improvement in viral load suppression which indicates a good performance of programmes, and they are aiming at identifying all people who are HIV-positive to put them on ART so that they suppress the virus for epidemic control and ending Aids by 2030.
He said, however, they still have challenges with men who are not coming up for HIV testing, pretending to be busy at work; consequently, they are not put on HIV treatment.
“It’s now not lack of commodities but people not coming to access services and those who come, some of them have a problem of not returning to pick drugs. Because of this, they endanger themselves and contribute negatively to population impact by transmitting HIV since they have not suppressed the virus. They also get drug resistance issues,” Musinguzi said.
He added that many adolescents are not also coming for testing and because of this they are not put on treatment which has led to increased HIV infection and death amongst the youth.
Musinguzi said they still have a challenge of many people in key population areas such as fishing communities, sex workers and truck drivers who have not yet tested yet they are at risk of HIV/Aids and others have high viral load.
“We have data which indicates that when a client’s viral load is suppressed, the chances of transmitting HIV infection are reduced. We have about six per cent reduction in HIV transmission,” he said.
WORLD AIDS DAY
World Aids day was commemorated on December 1, in Manafwa district. The theme focused on how to improve the HIV challenges and reduce gaps that have happened in the previous years, plus the need for people to know their HIV status. The occasion was also used to remember people who have died of HIV/Aids.
Musinguzi said HIV/Aids, which has been around for about 40 years, led to death of many Ugandans in the first 20 years of outbreak since there were not as many HIV interventions to fight the disease like the ones available today.
“Since 2,000, we have been able to have a lot of HIV tools like testing kits, ART drugs and laboratories to test viral load. This has helped to reduce on the number of people dying and also reduce on the new infections,” he said.
Musinguzi said their major approach to HIV now is to provide a combination package of HIV prevention methods where they have interventions focused on the structural factors in the community that pre-expose all their bearers to uptake of services which contribute to causes of HIV like early marriages and teenage pregnancies.
He said they are also focusing on behavioral change by working with partners such as UNFPA, USAID and Global Fund to distribute condoms to community level across the country.