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Rising numbers of new HIV cases worry experts

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EXPERTS on HIV/AIDs have expressed concern over the increasing new infections despite the several interventions to curb the pandemic.

They said that unless an emergency intervention is made, Uganda will  fail to attain the goal on reducing the incidence rate of HIV by 40% by 2012.

Dr.  Moses Kamya a consultant with MakSom yesterday told a three-day meeting on HIV/AIDS that people newly infected with HIV have increased from 115,775 in 2007 to 128,980 by December 2010.

He said that the annual number of new HIV infections increased by 11.4% between 2007/08 and 2011.

“Among adults, the annual number of new HIV infections rose by 11% during this period but there was a 5% decline in new infections among children below 15 years, partly because of improvements in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) uptake.

He said that the government must ensure that HIV positive people get early treatment to reduce on the expensive treatment and experts needed when the disease is full blown.

Kamya was making a presentation on care, treatment, progress and challenges in the mid-term review and the suggested revisions.

The meeting held at Imperial Royale Hotel was attended by ministers, legislators, medical experts, people living with HIV/Aids, development partners and civil society.

Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli the Director general of the Uganda Aids Commission which organized the meeting said that since the launching of the five-year Mid-term National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (NSP) 2007/08-2011/12, no review had been done.

He explained that the reviewing of the NSP would help find weaknesses, challenges, and achievements and forge a way forward.

Kamya regretted that there are 150,000 children below 15 years who are infected with HIV.

He stated “Although 98,523 (about 66%) children are eligible for Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) only 24,141 (about 24.5%) are accessing treatment.”

He explained that one way to reduce on children born with HIV is to encourage all pregnant women who are HIV positive to start on option B where they are given three types of ARTs without checking the CD4.

“Uganda has now adopted option B for PMTCT implying that HIV-infected women should receive a prolonged triple ART prophylaxis for the duration of breast feeding and all those eligible for ART should be on highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART).”

Previously an HIV pregnant woman would first be checked to see in her CD4 count was less than 350 to be put on ART. This has been changed because few health facilities can determine one’s CD4 count.

The Minister for presidency Kabakumba Masiko pledged government’s commitment to ensure that locally generated revenue is availed to support HIV/AIDs programmes.

He regretted the negative response the legislators had received from the public on the homosexuality Bill and the HIV prevention Bill.

“As MPs we are almost giving up. This meeting must energize this effort. It is only though mass HIV testing that we can know how best to tackle the pandemic.”

Majority of participants were opposed to criminalizing of any issue related to HIV infection and spread arguing that it would only make people avoid testing and cause stigma.

They regretted that the government has always left HIV/Aids issues as unfunded instead of prioritizing them.

Participants were also concerned with the misuse of donor funds to fight HIV siting the Global Fund saga and demanded that all the embezzled funds be refunded.

Prof. Vinand Nantulya , the UAC board chairman assured Ugandans that  the Global Fund has already approved US$130m and that a delegation of ots officials will be in Uganda next week  to sign other grants.

“ I want to give you the necessary comfort because I am the UAC chairman.”

By Josephine Maseruka and Brenda Asiimwe