Uganda is striving to consolidate the country’s gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS despite the impact of COVID-19, a senior health official said on Wednesday.
“COVID-19 did not spare the National HIV and AIDS Response. However, there was a 41 percent decline in HIV testing and 37 percent decline in referrals for diagnosis treatment due to the pandemic. So we would have performed better,” Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) Nelson Musoba said during the commemoration of World AIDS Day which falls on December 1 annually.
Musoba said despite the impact of COVID-19, the country will continue to fight HIV/AIDS and achieve the global target of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Ministry of Health and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) figures show that Uganda is on the right path, with the HIV prevalence currently down to 5.4 percent from 6.2 percent in 2016.
Musoba said the country is following the Presidential Fast Track Initiative launched in 2017 to end AIDS as a public health threat.
According to the UAC, currently, 94 percent of people with HIV in Uganda know their status, 98 percent of those diagnosed on antiretroviral therapy, and 91 percent of those in treatment are virally suppressed. This overall achievement of 94-98-91 is above the target of 90-90-90 set by UNAIDS earlier. This has been updated to a new target of 95-95-95.
Progress has been achieved on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to ensure financial sustainability for the HIV/AIDS response, according to the UAC.
Musoba said the UAC has developed and embarked on nationwide dissemination of the National Policy Guidelines on ending HIV stigma and discrimination, as HIV stigma and discrimination still impacts negatively on HIV testing, treatment and adherence to treatment.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said at the national commemoration of World AIDS Day that behavior change is still key to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“We should continue to disseminate information on abstinence, being faithful, and correct and consistent condom use to prevent HIV. In addition, we should increase knowledge on benefits of HIV testing, treatment and drug adherence as the pathway to viral suppression,” Museveni said.
He argued that everyone, including individuals, government leaders and health professionals, has a role to play in ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
The president urged local leaders to guide communities to dialogue, reflect on community solutions and pay particular attention to eliminating poverty and creating wealth because they are key underlying factors for HIV acquisition.