Ugandan President Urges Abstinence, Noncomplacency on AIDS; Health Official Says Disease Shifting to Older Population
Although Uganda has become a "world model" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, residents should not become "complacent" when dealing with the disease, and abstinence should be "stressed" as a means of HIV prevention, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday in a statement read by Health Minister Jim Muhwezi at the country's 4th National AIDS Conference in Kampala, Uganda's New Vision reports. Museveni in the statement urged parents to teach children to "stick to their norms and values" to avoid contracting HIV, according to New Vision. Ugandan Commissioner of Health Services Sam Okware at the conference said the "center of gravity" of HIV prevalence has "shifted" from people ages 22 to 35 to an "older generation," and he attributed the shift to the country's "ABC" prevention method -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- according to New Vision. "The youth have responded well to the campaign more than the older people," Okware said (Olupot, New Vision, 3/22). Supporters of Uganda's ABC method have widely credited the approach with lowering the country's HIV prevalence rate among adults from 30% in the early 1990s to less than 10% currently. However, the results of an unpublished study presented last month at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston -- which was conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University and several Ugandan organizations -- contradict previous findings, instead saying that the greatest factor in Uganda's declining HIV prevalence was premature death among HIV-positive people who died of AIDS-related causes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/24). About one million people in Uganda are HIV-positive, and about one million have died from AIDS-related causes since the disease was discovered in the country in 1982, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 3/22).
Universal Antiretroviral Treatment Progress
Muhwezi in June 2004 announced that the government would begin distributing antiretroviral drugs at no cost to HIV-positive people. About 45,000 people currently are receiving antiretroviral therapy in the country, and the health ministry wants 60,000 people to be receiving drug through the program by the end of 2005, Minister of State for Primary Health Care Alex Kamugisha said. According to health ministry statistics, about 100 health facilities in Uganda are distributing antiretrovirals, but there have been concerns that patients and medical personnel in rural areas might not be handling the drugs properly, Xinhua News Agency reports. The government also has expanded access to voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, and many health centers in the country now provide VCT services. Studies conducted by the health ministry show that 43% of people who use VCT services adopt "safer sexual behaviors and good health seeking practices," Xinhua News Agency reports (Ronald/Cailin, Xinhua News Agency, 3/22).