Govt looks at new HIV/AIDS prevention options as new cases spike

Kampala, (UG):- As new cases of HIV/AIDS infections continue to spike in various parts of Uganda, Government, through the Ministry of Health has reaffirmed its commitment to ending the virus by 2030 with a full focus on the new prevention options available.

According to Ms Harriet Nangobi, an official and health expert from the Ministry, apart from the existing traditional HIV prevention methods such as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), PrEP, condom use, abstinence, and being faithful, the government has now introduced new options, including oral PrEP, injectables, and the vaginal ring.

“The once-monthly injectable therapy PrEP has a long half-life, meaning it can stay in the body much longer than the pills, making long-acting treatment possible,” Ms Nangobi stated while briefing the media on the progress of new HIV/AIDS pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) interventions, which are set to be rolled out nationwide by the government.

Nangobi added that, unlike oral drugs, the injectable HIV treatment is taken every one or two months and is sufficient to maintain high enough blood levels of the medication to suppress HIV.

“This long-acting HIV treatment may be a game-changer for Uganda’s response. Oral and injectable PrEP are both over 95% effective, while the vaginal ring is over 60% effective. The first two options will be rolled out nationwide in November this year,” she emphasised.

With these methods followed to the required standard, Nangobi believes that Uganda could eliminate the virus by 2030.

A report with the media on Monday indicated that, currently, a total of 1.4 million people in Uganda are living with HIV/AIDS, of which 570 youths aged 15-24 years are newly infected with the virus each week.

New HIV infections, according to the report, stood at 123,000 in 2015, 53,000 in 2018, and 38,000 in 2020, but expressed fear that the latest report indicates the country has slid back to 53,000 new infections.

The meeting, organised by the Most At Risk Population Initiative (MAPI) in partnership with the Ministry of Health at the Tororo Hospital Boardroom, sought the opinions and inputs of various members of the Tororo district health team on how to implement the new PrEP interventions.

Okuga Peter, the Tororo district health educator, appealed for more focus on young people as one of the key drivers of the virus. He suggested visiting schools and talking to the silent majority about faithfulness and abstinence.

Okuga disclosed that Tororo’s 5.1% prevalence rate has significantly contributed to the national HIV prevalence rate of 5.5%, undermining the government’s efforts to achieve zero new infections by 2030.

Malaba, Osukuru, Nagongera, and Tororo Municipality were mentioned as areas in Tororo that, along with districts such as Mbarara and Rakai, have significantly contributed to the surging HIV prevalence rate in the country.

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