Uganda HIV infections shoot up

NEW HIV infections this year have already outstripped those of the previous year by 20,000 people, the executive director of the AIDS Information Centre-Uganda (AIC), Dr. Raymond Byaruhanga, has revealed.

The new infections recorded in 2010 stood at 130,000 and they are projected to hit 150,000.

The statistics show that there has been an upward spiral in the new infections with 2009 recording 101,000, which were less than those of 2010.

According to Dr. Byaruhanga, the infections are mostly among married people, government security agencies, private security guard agencies and sex workers. The youth follow these groups closely, he said.

Speaking at AIC’s annual general meeting at the Uganda Manufacturers Association Conference Hall on Friday, Byaruhanga said 12% of the new infections were among same-sex male partners.

The upsurge of the infections has implications on the different facets of society, which include a strain on health services, with more people needing the scarce life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

They also affect national productivity and social security because it affects the able-bodied age group of 25-49 years.

Most of Uganda’s budget for the anti-retroviral therapy is footed by donors, who have already indicated that they are under strain because of the economic downturn back home. They asked Ugandans to devise alternative means of fighting AIDS, including finding sources of additional funding.

According to Dr. Byaruhanga, most Ugandans do not know their sero-status and even fewer seek to find out. He said statistics show that about 13 million people (40%), out of the country’s 33 million, know their status.

National statistics indicate that infection rates had been reduced from 18% to 6%, before rising again to 6.4% and now at 6.7%.

He said the AIC plans to scale up voluntary counselling and testing services to cover the 60% gap of the people who do not know their status.

by Anne Mugisa and Juliet Waiswa – Sunday Vission