A new HIV/AIDS study shows a decline in deaths in Uganda over a 20-year period when the epidemic grew in most other African countries.
The study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, USA reveals that HIV/AIDS killed over 50,000 Ugandans in 1990, a figure that came down to 48,250 people in 2010.
This trend is in sharp contrast to many other African countries such as Kenya, where deaths due to HIV/AIDS grew by more than 1700% in the same period.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic peaked in Uganda in 1995 significantly earlier than in many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and health interventions have helped drive down the number of deaths by 53.3% since that time.
The interventions include increased Anti-Retroviral treatment coverage, policy changes such as interventions to curb the mother to child transmission and a global policy with development assistance targeting HIV/AIDS which has increased from 1.4 billion to 6.8 billion US Dollars. This is an increase of 385.7% that does not include funds spent by low and middle income countries.
But the data from Uganda also proves that progress against the disease can be precarious. HIV/AIDS is still the country’s number one killer. In addition, mortality from HIV/AIDS edged up slightly between 2005, when the disease was responsible for 16.6% of Ugandan deaths, to 2010, when the figure was 17.2%.
Dr. Felix Masiye, a leading health metrics researcher in East Africa, says even in African countries that are showing significant progress like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and others, HIV remains a tremendous health threat and continued vigilance will be critical.
HIV/AIDS still takes an enormous toll on Ugandans, who can blame 14.7% of their premature deaths and disability, collectively known as disease burden or disability adjusted life years on the disease.
Uganda accounts for 3.2% of the global disability adjusted life years for HIV/AIDS. In addition, Ugandan women are slightly more burdened by HIV/AIDS than men.
In sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 70.9% of the global health loss attributable to HIV/AIDS, progress against the disease is mixed. The research shows that mortality in 2010 dramatically decreased for example Rwanda at 83.1 percent, Botswana 74 and Zimbabwe 47.5 percent.
In other countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and the Central African Republic, progress has been nearly nonexistent.
The researchers note that African health landscape is increasingly dominated by the rise of non-communicable diseases, injuries and disabling conditions, but HIV is a dramatic exception to this trend.
This disease burden is prevalent particularly among men aged 30-44 and women aged 25 to 44. In countries like South Africa; the picture is even more striking. In 2010, HIV/AIDS caused 75% of deaths among people aged 30 to 34. The figure rose to 84% for women in that age group.
The latest figures on Uganda appear to disagree with earlier findings this year that pasted a gray picture.
In May, a top official of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Uganda warned that the country was losing the fight against HIV/Aids, with the infection rates steadily rising.
Musa Bungudu, the UNAIDS Country Director, said 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.
In July, UNAIDS released a report indicating that Uganda continues to post poor results in the fight against HIV/Aids.
The report, launched on July 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa, says that whereas countries of eastern and southern Africa are making important progress towards achieving an AIDS-free generation, Uganda still has some issues calling for alarm.
The report, “Getting to Zero: the HIV epidemic in the eastern and southern Africa”, says the number of children infected with HIV has fallen by more than half in countries like Ethiopia , Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.
It further says Kenya and Tanzania are among the countries where HIV infection rates among children have fallen by more than one third in the period between 2009 and 2012. Other countries in this category include Malawi and Zimbabwe.
But it paints a grim picture for Uganda in several areas. The country, once seen as a model in the fight against the deadly virus, was categorized among the countries with stagnating or increasing HIV incidences. Also in this category is Lesotho.
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.