Kampala- Experts on HIV/Aids have warned that the current decline in new infections is likely to be short-lived if the government and its partners do not put more emphasis on districts that continue to register high rates of new infections.
A new report, released by Uganda Aids Commission indicates a 27 per cent decline in HIV infections, with new infections dropping to 99,000 by end of 2014 down from 160,000 in 2010.
However, in an interview with Sunday Monitor, Mr Musa Bungudu, the United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids country representative, said the Uganda government should put emphasis on about 15 districts which he named as HIV/Aids transmission “hotspots”.
The districts are: Wakiso, Kampala, Kabarole, Mubende, Jinja, Buikwe, Rakai, Hoima, Gulu, Kabale, Luweero, Ntungamo, Mityana and Mbarara.
“There are reductions in infections but if we put more attention to about 15 districts based on the available data and do massive HIV testing campaigns, we can achieve a lot,” said Mr Bungudu.
Citing an example of Wakiso, Mr Bungudu said the district continues to diagnose a high number of mothers living with HIV/Aids who are immediately enrolled on antiretroviral treatment (ART).
“In week 31 of this year, out of the 542 pregnant mothers who attended antenatal in 44 health centres in Wakiso, 486 were tested and 23 were found HIV positive,” Mr Bungudu said.
He added that 498 pregnant women tested HIV positive and were started on treatment in the entire country during the 29th week of 2015.
Mr Bungudu observed that the HIV hotspot districts have the most-at-risk populations, including fishing communities, commercial sex workers, long-distance commercial drivers, and boda boda cyclists.
Prof Peter Mugyenyi, a pioneer researcher on HIV treatment and founder of the Joint Clinical Research Centre, said relying on HIV infection incidences to fight the pandemic is a defective strategy.
“We should now stop the old fashioned approaches and focus on modern approaches to stop the pandemic. We should test everybody and if we fail, let’s test at least 90 per cent of the populations,” said Prof Mugyenyi.
He added that those found infected with HIV should immediately be put on treatment and also closely followed by monitoring their viral loads if the country is to tame the scourge.
On the challenge of limited resources for HIV testing and treatment, Prof Mugyenyi urged government to sacrifice and make funds available and stop depending on donors.
He noted that the passing of HIV/Aids law by Parliament was a positive step.
The 2014 HIV/Aids country progress report indicated a progressive increase in the number of individuals testing for HIV since 2011 from 5,524,327 people to 9,564,992 in 2014. Nearly two thirds of these were women, and about 10 per cent children aged under 15.
The report further indicated that out of those tested, about 1,727,465 were pregnant women who attended antenatal clinics.
The decline in the number of infections was more significant among children where a 70 per cent reduction was recorded.
Dr Christine Ondoa, the director general of the Uganda Aids Commission, attributed the reductions in new infections to a combination of interventions which include: increased HIV counselling and testing; care and treatment services and elimination of mother-to-child transmission programme.