International AIDS Society

Uganda’s New HIV Prevention Plan Questioned by Local Expert, NGO

Author: Mark Mascolini

18 September 2012

Uganda unveiled a comprehensive strategy to reverse a rebound in HIV rates across the country. But a Makerere University HIV expert and head of an HIV-directed nongovernmental organization (NGO) questioned the shape of the plan and the commitment of the government, PlusNews reports.

HIV prevalence in Uganda rose from 6.4% to 7.3% in the past 5 years. In response, the government developed a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that aims to cut new HIV infections up to 30% by 2015.

Goals of the new plan are “increasing the adoption of safer sexual behaviour and reduction of risk-taking behaviour, attaining critical coverage of effective HIV prevention service, creating a sustainable enabling environment that mitigates the underlying structural drivers of the epidemic, re-engaging leadership and energizing coordination of HIV prevention, and improving strategic information on HIV prevention.”

PlusNews reports the following specific components of Uganda’s revamped anti-HIV effort:

— Improve quality and coverage of HIV counseling and testing
— Increase condom use
— Fast-track rollout of safe male circumcision to reach 4.2 million men by 2015
— Expand antiretroviral treatment as HIV prevention
— Increase prevention of mother-to-child transmission service coverage from 52% to 75%

“We are mobilizing more funds for treatment, care, prevention and strengthening health systems,” David Kihumuro Apuuli, general director of the Uganda AIDS Commission, told PlusNews.

But Alex Coutinho, who heads the infectious disease unit at Kampala’s Makerere University, advised PlusNews that “in Uganda, we are experts at preparing very good and wonderful plans. But we are not executing them with speed and direction. The strategy must be linked to the implementation.”

Stella Alamo-Talisuna, executive director of the NGO Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative, told PlusNews that Uganda still does too little to stem the spread of HIV in high-risk groups. “As a country, we don't have programmes that are targeting sex workers, homosexuals . . . so how can we achieve the target?”

Research over the past several years estimated HIV prevalence at 13.7% among Ugandan men who have sex with men. A 2011 study found that 37% of Kampala sex workers have HIV infection. Both rates are well above the national average.

Source: PlusNews. Uganda: Questions over government's ability to cut new HIV infections. 12 September 2012.

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