What you need to know:
- Currently, people use the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill to lower the risk of infection.
The Ministry of Health has approved the use of dapivirine vaginal ring (DRV) and long acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) as additional optional drugs for preventing HIV/Aids infection in Uganda.
Currently, HIV-negative individuals rely on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) where they take a pill on a daily basis to lower the risk of becoming HIV-positive when exposed to the virus.
But according to Dr Vincent Bagambe, the director for planning and strategic information at the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC), CAB-LA as an injectable form of PrEP has proved to be highly effective in reducing the risk of HIV acquisition.
He was speaking at the HIV/Aids symposium at Makerere University Business School yesterday.
“This year, the Ministry of Health approved two new HIV prevention methods; the dapivirine vaginal ring and long acting injectable cabotegravir, and service guidelines have been updated appropriately,” Dr Bagambe said.
”The vaginal ring, which women insert in their private parts before having sex, has an antiviral agent that is able to prevent HIV infection. This option will put HIV prevention in the hands of women. If all women vulnerable to HIV can embrace it, it will be a game changer,” he explained.
Dr Bagambe explained that the person using the CAB-LA method receives one injection after every six months.
This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year recommended that CAB-LA be offered as an additional HIV prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.
Presenting the National HIV/Aids report, Dr Bagambe said the disease remains a burden in Uganda, with 1.4 million people currently infected.
According to the report, last year, the country registered 54,000 new HIV/Aids infections, of which two thirds were adolescents. However, the report indicates that girls bear the highest brunt of the new infections.
He also revealed that the infection rate among children born to mothers living with HIV has increased from 1.7 percent last year to 2.7 percent this year due to poor adherence to treatment.
Dr Baguma noted that although their budget had been increased from Shs298b during the last financial year to Shs304 billion, they need more financial support.
Dr Bagambe revealed that last year, about 17,000 people in Uganda died of HIV/Aids- related diseases, majority of whom were men. He attributed this to poor health seeking behaviour among the men.
He said 17,000 deaths per year is higher than the 2025 target of less than 10,000 deaths per year.
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who was the chief guest at the symposium, also admitted that HIV/Aids remains a burden in the country.
“Despite the tremendous success made in reduction of HIV prevalence from 18 percent in 1990s to the current 5.5 percent, the prevalence among women remains at 7.2 percent, 4.2 among men and the prevalence among adolescents is four times higher,” she said.
The US Ambassador, Ms Natalie Brown, pledged her government’s support to Uganda’s interventions in the fight against HIV/Aids.