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Aids fight: New approaches needed to reduce scourge

Uganda is often cited as a rare example of success in a continent facing a severe..

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By Kaviri Ali

Uganda is often cited as a rare example of success in a continent facing a severe HIV/Aids crisis. The country is seen as having implemented a well-timed and successful HIV/Aids prevention campaign, which has been credited with helping to bring the prevalence rate from around 15 per cent in the early 1990s down to around 5 per cent in 2001.

Sadly, Uganda is at an important crossroad in her nearly 30-year long struggle with the HIV/Aids epidemic and prevalence has increased, especially amongst the young people who constitute over 70 per cent of the population. After a dramatic reduction in HIV occurrence, following an early comprehensive HIV/Aids prevention campaign, there is evidence that the number of people living with HIV in the country is on the increase and majorities are youth.

The reasons for this increase have been attributed to the government’s shift towards abstinence – only prevention programmes – a general complacency or ‘Aids fatigue’ and a suggestion that Anti-retroviral drugs have changed the perception of HIV/Aids from a death sentence to a treatable, manageable disease.

The epidemic is also a gender issue because it affects men and women differently. The prevalence rates are higher among women with young women being at a greater risk of contagion. Young girls are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids because of intergenerational sex, discrimination, sexual violence, cultural beliefs and limited access to information.

In Africa, women’s vulnerability to HIV/Aids is rooted in the existing strong gender inequalities in the distribution of resources, which leaves women economically dependent on their male sexual partners and hence lack of control over their sexuality and fertility which renders them vulnerable to poverty, violence and sexual coercion.

HIV/Aids has claimed many lives as a result of limited sensitisation, limited knowledge about prevention, limited access to health services and stigma; which have all obstructed many from accessing treatment. Many people have been involved in careless sexual relationships; extra-marital relations and premarital sex.

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