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New Vision
Uganda: Experts Warn On Increased HIV/Aids Prevalence
<p>Patrick Jaramogi</p>
March 10, 2013

The Government should design mechanisms to curb the increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence that is threatening the struggle against the scourge, experts have advised.

The doctors said Uganda was slowly losing the war against HIV/AIDS infections due to mixed messages regarding prevention.

The medics made their recommendations during the Uganda National Academy of Sciences (UNAS) Research Academia and Service entity annual experts meeting held at Hotel Africana on Thursday. The theme of the meeting was addressing research gaps at the Uganda AIDS Commission.

"HIV/AIDS may be medical but the social cultural issues may fuel it," said Prof. Charles Rwabukwali of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Makerere University.

Rwabukwali pointed out that the people who begun the fight against the scourge were losing steam. "Like any other struggle, 25 years is a long time. People are losing steam. We are getting tired. We need young blood to take over the mantle in this struggle," he said at the meeting.

"We used to speak the same language but today we are speaking different tongues. Some advocate for male circumcision, others say condoms while others say abstinence, we must speak the same language," he said.

He called for mandatory HIV testing for all couples intending to wed along with all pupils joining Primary and University as a means to curb on the increasing prevalence. "We are likely to stagnant and I am not surprised that the HIV prevalence is increasing. People are saying you can't trust your life on a mere piece of rubber (condom) this talk should cease," he said.

'Research has shown that married people are more at risk that is why we need compulsory testing for couples planning to get married. We also need to address the hot spots such as the gay communities and casual sex workers along fish landing sites," he said.

Prof Edward Kirumira the Dean Faculty of Social Sciences at Makerere University however said the issue of compulsory testing should be commensurate with the provision of ARVs. "HIV/AIDS testing is an individual decision though it also has impacts on public health. That is why we are saying if people are tested and they are found positive, they should also be in position to be provided with free ARVs," said Kirumira.

Dr. Steven Watiti of Mildmay described the new increased HIV prevalence as an embarrassment to the nation. 'The viral load in the Ugandan communities is too high because majority of people are moving with HIV but they don't know. Majority fear to get tested," said Watiti. He said it was so disturbing that even discordant couples that he counsels on daily basis don't use condoms. "When I ask them if they use condoms, they say no because they are husband and wife," he said. He said the unsafe sexual practices like having sex without a condom was a reason for the increased prevalence now at over 7 percent.

"Let's teach the people that it is dangerous to have unprotected sex with partners whose status you don't know. Doing so is like trying to cross Kampala Road when your eyes are tied," he said.

Dr. Cissy Kityo the deputy director Joint Clinical Research Center (JCRC) called for unified efforts towards increased provision of ARVs. 'The national HIV/AIDS prevalence now at 7.4% is so worrying. The infections are on the rise daily yet only 400,000 people are on ARVs majority in need can't access. We may need to go to the streets to demand for more ARVs," she said.

Dr. Sam Okware the Director General of Uganda National Health Research Organisation said all methods should be used in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Jeremiah Twa Twa the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS said all approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention should be utilized. "We were doing very well when we started with ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom Use) but this aspect of AB (Abstinence and Be faithful) won't work out. The marriage collusions is getting weaker. Life must continue and people must have sex," he said.

He said the issue of condom distribution needs to be addressed. "The issue of compulsory needs serious thought but only if passed through Parliament so that the activists don't say its discrimination," he said