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HIV among key population worries AIDS commission

Road sign of AIDS KILLS

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The prevalence of HIV among the key populations is complicating the fight against AIDS in Uganda.

According to Uganda AIDS Commission, the key populations which include Commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men are increasingly becoming vulnerable to HIV.

Commercial Sex work and homosexuality in Uganda is illegal. Health experts and studies have found that under such a legal environment, individuals among those key populations tend not to seek treatment or go underground for fear of stigma and stigmatization

A recent study assessing the HIV/AIDS Legal Environment Assessment for Key populations in Uganda found that approximately 25 percent of new HIV infections are among members of these key populations and their partners.

The study conducted by researchers from Makerere University estimated that key populations in Uganda total approximately 310,000 individuals; of whom: 130,000 are female sex workers.

It said the number of people living with HIV among these populations can be up to five times higher than in the general population.

It said that it is critical for Uganda to provide tailored support for key populations to prevent HIV and attain epidemic control.

Steven Asiimwe, an HIV prevention officer at Uganda AIDA Commission told journalists on Friday that various interventions have been put up to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS but it is difficult to reach communities mainly because of structural issues more than behavioral traits.

According to Asiimwe, irrespective of the systems that have been put up, there are challenges faced in communities like prisons that are beyond the HIV prevention mechanisms.

Among the key population with high concentrations of AIDS are prisons across the country

Asiimwe allayed fears that the high HIV rates in prisons could be linked to homosexuality. He said there has not been a study to confirm that inmates are engaging in homosexuality.

“As an HIV researcher, I can’t see a person with HIV and say they have gotten it from that incidence or any other situation. I will have to first do a study for me to get a scientific understanding of what is going on in this situation. And after the media report from the daily monitor, as UAC our next step is to do this research to find out what is going on in these communities,” he explained.

The Uganda Prison Service has explained that prisoners normally get to prison when they already have the virus that causes AIDS.

Asiimwe was one of the speakers at a function organized Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders’ Initiative for Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level (AMICAALL) where journalists were being sensitized to reignite grassroots mobilization on HIV prevention, ending stigma and discrimination of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Restituta Kagguma Nabwire, the AMICAALL acting country director said HIV/ AIDS messages are slowly declining within the media space, and this needs to be resurrected if the Ugandan society is to be reawakened towards preventing and ending AIDS.



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