With confirmation of increased HIV prevalence from 6.4% in 2004 to 7.3% currently, a new report has indicated that majority of Ugandans infected with the virus prefer keeping their status a secret.
The Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) 2011 report also has more astounding revelations including that men in Busoga have the highest multiple sexual partners compared to their counterparts in other regions.
According to the report, HIV/AIDS is more prevalent among the least educated groups than the elite but also it is highest among the wealthy than the poor.
Ironically, the report shows declining will among Ugandans to use condoms despite higher risky sexual behaviours.
It is about three decades since the pandemic broke out in the country, but still over 60% of Ugandans want to keep their status a secret when infected.
The report attributes the problem to widespread stigma, whereby people living with HIV continue to be viewed as shameful and the disease perceived to be a result of personal irresponsibility.
According to the survey, about one in every five people said that "people with the AIDS virus should be ashamed of themselves and blamed for bringing the disease into the community."
"If not counteracted, such attitudes allow societies to excuse themselves from the responsibility of caring for and looking after those who are infected," says the report.
"More importantly, stigma leads to secrecy and denial that hinder people from seeking counseling and testing for HIV, as well as care and support services."
The survey was conducted from February to September, 2011. A representative sample of 12,153 women and 9, 588 men, aged between 15 and 59 years, in selected households were interviewed across the country.
State minister for primary healthcare, Sarah Opendi, yesterday launched the report at the Kampala Africana Hotel, with a call to enhance evidence-based prevention strategies especially safe male circumcision.
Opendi also promised punitive action against medics who accept bribes to issue fake HIV blood test results, saying they were driving the anti-HIV campaign backwards.
The report shows that HIV prevalence increases with age until it peaks at age 35 to 39 years for women and 40 to 44 among men.
A much larger proportion of men than women reported having two or more sexual partners in the 12 months before the survey.
Almost one in five men (20%) reported having multiple sexual partners compared to three percent of women.
Men who are currently married or living together with a partner are far more likely to report having multiple partners than men who are never married or divorced, widowed or separated.
The report attributes this to polygamy, whereby 16% of married men reported having more than one wife.
Ironically, condom use remains low among people with multiple sexual partners (16% in men and 15% in women).
Some 31% of the men in Busoga reported having multiple sexual partners, making the region number one in this category.
Busoga is followed by Bunyoro and Toro districts where 25% of the men have multiple sexual partners.
The percentage of men with multiple sexual partnerships is lowest in Kampala followed by West Nile and South Western Uganda.
However, in terms of HIV prevalence by region, the Central Region is the most affected with a prevalence rate of 9%-10.6%.
It is followed by mid-northern, mid-western and south-western Uganda where the prevalence rate ranges between 8% to 8.3%.The prevalence rate in Kampala stands at 7.1%.
Although multiple sexual partnerships are highest in Busoga, HIV prevalence there remains low at 6.7% in men and 4.8% among women. Neither the report nor the health ministry officials could explain what caused the variance between multiple sexual partnerships and HIV prevalence.
Mid-eastern region has the lowest HIV prevalence followed by West Nile and North East.
The report indicated a tremendous increase in voluntary HIV testing and counselling (VCT) in the country over the past seven years, from 13% to 66% among women and 11% to 45% among men.