The HIV/Aids prevalence in Uganda stands at 7.3 per cent. Even then, this should give us hope because it shows we have come far, bringing it down from an all-time high of 30 per cent in 1989. It is also evidence that our efforts have not been in vain and we’re not at the place of no return. These new figures from the Ministry of Health (MoH) show that new infections that occurred in 2013 reduced from 145,00 to 130,000.
So what we must do now with the new infections is fight to cut the number even further. This means our interventions must target the core risk groups more prone to contracting new cases of HIV/Aids, especially the sex workers, long-distance truck drivers, and the fishing communities, men who have sex with men, sero-discordant couples and mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Besides, Ugandans should stop being complacent but be more watchful of their sexual conduct and not be lulled into false security that our lives can be saved by Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ARTs). Indeed, since the advent of ARTs in 2004, HIV/Aids have become less scary. And because of the life-saving ARTs, the prevalence of HIV/Aids has gone up from 6.3 per cent in 2003 to the current 7.3 per cent while new infections nearly doubled from 70,000 to 160,000.
This is boosted by the prevailing trust in ARTs that when one gets HIV they can get drugs and live a normal life. But HIV/Aids can still return to touch every family as it did in late 1990s and early 2002. Lest we forget, the signs of the disease may no longer be visible, but HIV/Aids still stalks us all and kills, though it is preventable.
Let us remember, too, the wise rebuke by late Bishop of Namirembe Diocese Misaeri Kavuma, who famously called unprotected and reckless sex outside marriage as “foolish and stupid.”
The World Health Organisation, Ministry of Health, and all support agencies should regenerate the strategy of Abstinence, Being faithful and use of Condoms as way of controlling the HIV/Aids epidemic. This should work when condoms are made more widely available and affordable and less commercialised.
Uganda must pick up the ball it dropped and once made the country a global showcase for our response against HIV/Aids. This means Uganda should revisit some of its best practices. For those involved in the HIV/Aids response, there is the call to revise the HIV/Aids strategy. Let us revive the broken communication strategy and resound louder the drums of danger against the disease so more fear of the disease is once more driven into Ugandans.
Ugandans should revive their positive fear of HIV/Aids.
Let not the reduced mortality rates relax our guard and responses against the pandemic.