KABALE, UGANDA: There is a growing uproar in Kabale after the health department revealed that the number of people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in the district is far above their projections.
According to statistics from the district health department, the district has seen a 52% rise in HIV/Aids cases, according to tests that were conducted in the year 2020.
Without revealing the total number of people they tested in 2020, Alfred Besigensi, acting Kabale District Health Officer confirms that they had projected to get 5,860 HIV/Aids victims. Instead, Besigensi says that they have been shocked when the number of victims went beyond 8,920.
Besigensi reveals that the HIV prevalence rate in the district stands at 6.6 percent.
Besigensi says that most of the victims were found at the Uganda-Rwanda border of Katuna, the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, and Kabale town, which he attributes to higher sexual activities in those places.
Besigensi also attributes the high number of HIV victims to general poverty especially caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, an influx of sex workers, and false beliefs.
Besigensi however says that on a positive note, they found out that out of 8,921 people who tested positive, 8,920 (99.9998%)were already at antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).
He also says that the high number of victims already on ARVs is because the health department made sure that health workers carry out enough counseling to whoever tests positive and making sure that there is no ARVs stock out.
He also says that they resolved to use peer models (HIV victims) in distributing ARVs directly to homes of other victims especially during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
Besigensi adds that the department is now focusing on more testing so that people know their status, and sensitizing the public to abstain from unprotected sex or remain faithful as well as using condoms.
Waswa Achilles Kawoya, executive director of Organization for Community Empowerment, a non-government organization that operates in Kabale, Ntungamo and Lyantonde districts with the objective of responding to the causes and effects of mass poverty, says that the high prevalence rate in Kabale is because the district receives many female Rwandan nationals who trade sex at Katuna border and later proceed to Kabale town, Ntungamo, and Lyantonde before returning to Rwanda.
Kawoya says that they are now focusing on making sure that the already affected people are identified and put on proper medication so that they live longer and they don’t get any stigmatization from other members of the public and health workers.
He also says that they are focusing on strategies of giving knowledge to the victims so that they don’t die in poverty.
In August 2019, Dr. Edward Bitarakwate, the Country Director Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in Uganda revealed that their survey had found out that a total of 3,607 youth living with HIV in the Kigezi sub the region were not on treatment.
Birakwate said that 45,000 people are living with HIV in the sub-region and a total of 7,185 youth wre HIV Positive but only 3,578 of them were enrolled on the life-prolonging HIV treatment at the time.
According to the 2017 Uganda Population HIV Impact Assessment, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the Kigezi sub-region at the time stood at 7.9 percent.