Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic Concentrated Among Adults, Health Ministry Says
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda is now concentrated among adults, and HIV prevention campaigns should be redesigned to target the population, the country's Ministry of Health said recently, the New Vision/AllAfrica.com reports. According to the ministry's data, the average age of an HIV-positive person in the country has increased from 22 in 1988 to about 35 currently. A study conducted in the country from 2004 to 2005 tested 30,000 people ages 15 to 59 nationwide for HIV. The study found that 0.3% of boys ages 15 to 19 and 2.3% of men ages 20 to 24 are HIV-positive, compared with more than 9% of men ages 35 to 44. "The epidemic has changed, but we have not kept the pace in our approach," Sam Okware, the commissioner of health services, said. He added, "We continue to focus our prevention messages more on youth. This is a grave mistake as the epidemic is now concentrated in adults. People in 30s and 40s are struggling with their sexual lives and getting infected in big numbers." He also said that HIV prevention messages should focus on groups that might be the primary sources of new HIV cases. Health experts believe that most men who contract HIV are married because the average age of marriage for men in the country is 22. Most HIV-positive women in the country contract the virus between ages 30 to 39, according to health ministry statistics. "Because the average age of marriage for females is 17.8 years, most women get infected a decade or more into marriage," Wilford Kirungi, an epidemiologist and study researcher, said (New Vision/AllAfrica.com, 3/12). Uganda AIDS Commission Chief Kihumuro Apuuli said, "We are not going to manage this epidemic if we are not focusing on where the problem is." Donna Kabatesi of the CDC/Uganda Virus Research Institute said HIV cases in Uganda easily could increase unless prevention messages target adults. According to research by the organization Parent Talk, most married couples in Uganda have never discussed how to prevent HIV (Xinhua News Agency, 3/12). "Since [couples] have had unprotected sex together for years, if their partner has HIV/AIDS, they assume that they do too," Cathy Watson, a co-director of Straight Talk Foundation, said (New Vision/AllAfrica.com, 3/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.