Uganda puts 62pc Aids patients on ARV treatment

Saturday January 19 2013

By Special Correspondent IRIN

Uganda needs to do more to achieve its goal of ensuring that 80 per cent of people living with HIV receive antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) by 2015, according to the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC).

Some 62 per cent of those needing treatment were on ARVs in March 2012, up from 50 per cent in 2010. Uganda managed to enrol an estimated 65,493 new HIV cases on ARVs in 2012, bringing to 356,056 the number of those receiving the life-prolonging drugs, according to UAC statistics.

To improve the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the government launched the UN World Health Organisation’s “Option B+” strategy in September 2012. It involves giving HIV-positive mothers triple-therapy ARVs as soon as they are diagnosed, and continuing treatment for life, regardless of their CD4 count.

Recent statistics show that Uganda’s HIV prevalence has risen from 6.4 per cent to 7.3 per cent over the past five years.

Health facilities face frequent drugs stock-outs, inadequate CD4 count machines and are understaffed. Additionally, Uganda’s HIV programmes have been hit by a funding crunch limiting their ability to function.

Of the 700 health facilities listed as offering antiretroviral therapy (ART), only 532 were doing so by end of March 2012.

The government acknowledges more must be done, saying it will focus on HIV prevention and allocate more funds to fighting the disease.

“The majority of accredited sites are higher-level facilities such as hospitals and Health Centres IV [county level], while just 8 per cent of Health Centres III [sub-county] are active, thus limiting access for rural communities.

The situation is worse in hard-to-reach areas, such as the fishing islands,” noted UAC in a recent report.

It added: “There is, therefore, a need to accelerate accreditation of Health Centres IV and III to enable access to ART for eligible individuals, including pregnant women, and health facilities that are accredited and are not functional should be supported to become functional.”

Government help

David Apuuli Kihumuro, UAC’s director-general said: “We are going to get some 214,000 individuals on ART by 2013 and have set an annual target of enrolling a minimum of 100,000 patients.”

According to Health Minister Christine Ondoa, the government will continue to allocate funds to fight the epidemic.

“We shall also mobilise funds from our development partners for universal access, prevention, treatment and care,” said Ms Ondoa.