A top UNAIDS official in Uganda has said the country is losing the fight against HIV/Aids, with the infection rates steadily rising.
Musa Bungudu, the UNAIDS Country Director, says Uganda is the only country in the Eastern and Southern Africa with rising HIV/AIDS infection rates. Up to 145,000 new infections are recorded each year.
According to the 2011 National HIV Indicator Survey, the prevalence rates among Ugandans between the ages of 15 to 19 are going up. It now stands at 7.3 percent and even higher in women at 8.3 percent up from 6.4 percent in the 2004-2005 survey.
Bungudu says he is disheartened that it was Uganda that was at the forefront of managing, planning, implementing and monitoring HIV/Aids for almost two decades, but is now taking lessons from other countries.
The main forms of infection remain unprotected sex and from pregnant HIV positive mothers to their babies. Bunguda calls on government to learn from the mistakes that were done before and pick good lessons to forge a way forward. This can only be done if the prevention message is moved from city centres to districts up country especially by the political leaders starting with the President, district and religious leaders.
Dr Kihumuro Apuuli, the Director General Uganda Aids Commission acknowledges that in the early phases of the HIV/Aids, Uganda scored impressive success when the whole nation got together in solidarity to fight the epidemic.
They brought down the overall proportion of people infected with HIV and more importantly the number of new infections per year. However, now the number of new infections is rising from 124,000 in 2009 to 128,000 in 2010 and approximately 145,000 in 2011.
This means that each day 400 people are infected with HIV thus exceeding the annual number of patients enrolled onto anti-retroviral treatment by two fold.
Dr Kihumuro notes that if new infections continue to rise the HIV burden is projected to increase by more than 700,000 over the next five years. Kihumuro says about 25,000 babies will be born with the infection each year.
He says the question that needs to be answered is where it all went wrong. The Aids Commission director general sates that it went wrong when Uganda lost its focus on behavior as the centerpiece of its efforts to run off the flow of new infections. Others reasons for the rising rates are being complacent through lifestyles of unprotected sex, general silence and sending messages to the public that do not make sense to them.
Bunguda, while talking about accountability, noted that Uganda is receiving loads of money to fight HIV especially from external resources. However, the dependence needs to be cut down by introduction of an HIV/AIDS levy.
Kihumuro says they have estimated that they can raise 300 million US dollars annually by simple taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, travel tickets and airtime.