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Is the HIV Epidemic close to an End?

At the just concluded International Conference on AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases held in South Africa experts cautioned the world against promising a close end to the HIV Pandemic. It was noted that key populations, are under-served, as a result the end to the epidemic is not close. It’s now over 32 years since the first HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the World and Uganda. Unfortunately this deadly disease is still here with us. Hitherto we are not certain of when this scourge will come to an end.

Although Uganda has scored some progress in reducing new HIV infections in the past year by 13 percent to 140,000 compared to the 160,000 new infections in 2011, new HIV infections remain an acceptably high.  Over 380 Ugandans are infected daily.  Furthermore,  several groups are increasingly becoming vulnerable to getting infected with  HIV such as commercial sex workers and their clients and spouses, fishing communities, long distance truck drivers’, men and women serving in armed forces and  away from home, plus men who have sex with men.

Recent studies conducted in Uganda reveal new groups at increased risk of HIV infection.  These include border-border riders, house maids, university students, and married couples. Critically looking at these population groups one would conclude that every one of us is at increased risk.

As we open the door to 2014, Uganda AIDS Commission acknowledges the committed leadership of His Excellency, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in advocating for an HIV free Uganda by encouraging each of us to test for HIV. Knowing one’s HIV status helps one make appropriate decisions and access right health services.  In the same vein we hail everyone who is involved in the fight against HIV.

In Uganda, HIV is mostly acquired through unsafe sex, while only 10 percent is transmitted through mother to her unborn child.  Less than 1 percent is transmitted through blood transfusion and other means of blood contact.   These facts are sometimes not known to most Ugandans, due to several confusing and wrong messages run in the public domain on HIV/AIDS.  For instance, some believe that “HIV can be caused through mosquito bites.” This is out right wrong as there is no evidence to date to support such thinking. Because of this, a Message Clearing Committee is now in place to screen all HIV messages before they are published, as well as monitor all media houses to ensure that only factual HIV messages are disseminated.

I appeal to all of us to test and know our HIV sero-status before entering 2014.  Let us resolve to live responsibly and have a productive lifestyle in the New Year.  Each of us has a choice to protect ourselves, and those we care about. Lastly I call upon all of us to stop discriminating persons infected with HIV. It is inhuman to discriminate fellow human beings irrespective of race, religion, health status or name it. Let us not be destructed by artifacts as each of us strives for an HIV free Uganda.

Dr. Peter Mudiope,
Head of HIV Prevention,
Uganda AIDS Commission.