HIV reduction strategies in Uganda

There are questions over the Ugandan government’s ability to cut new HIV infections.

There are questions over the Ugandan government’s ability to cut new HIV infections.

KAMPALA - In response to rising HIV prevalence, Uganda's government has announced a strategy to reduce new HIV infections by up to 30 percent by 2015, but activists have cast doubt on its ability to achieve this ambitious goal.

Uganda's HIV prevalence has risen from 6.4 percent to 7.3 percent over the past five years.

In August, the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) released a revised National HIV Prevention Strategy aimed at "increasing the adoption of safer sexual behaviour and reduction of risk-taking behaviour, attaining critical coverage of effective HIV prevention service, creating a sustainable enabling environment that mitigates the underlying structural drivers of the epidemic, re-engaging leadership and energising coordination of HIV prevention, and improving strategic information on HIV prevention".

The Ministry of Health also plans to improve the quality and coverage of HIV counselling and testing, increase condom use, fast-track the rollout of safe male circumcision to reach 4.2 million men by 2015, expand antiretroviral treatment as HIV prevention, and increase the coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services from 52 percent to 75 percent.

"We must rise up now. The HIV prevalence in Uganda is not good. The new infections are rising. We are determined to implement all the proven biomedical and behaviour HIV prevention strategies to combat the virus," David Kihumuro Apuuli, director general of the UAC, told IRIN/PlusNews.

"We are mobilising more funds for treatment, care, prevention and strengthening health systems."

However, HIV experts are sceptical about the government's ability and commitment to achieve these ambitious goals. For instance, a voluntary medical male circumcision programme launched in 2010 is moving slower than anticipated due to funding and health system challenges.

"In Uganda, we are experts at preparing very good and wonderful plans. But we are not executing them with speed and direction. The strategy must be linked to the implementation," Alex Coutinho, executive director of Makerere University's Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), told IRIN/PlusNews.

"As a country, we are not heading in the right direction in HIV prevention. We are moving too slowly to achieve the national goals to reduce HIV incidence by 2015. We need to improve and double our efforts."