Uganda is often held up as a model for Africa in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Strong government leadership, broad-based partnerships and effective public education campaigns all contributed to a decline in the number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the 1990s.
Despite this impressive reduction in the spread of AIDS in Uganda (from 30 percent in the 1980s to 6.5 percent to date), AIDS is still infecting and killing many Ugandans. Uganda’s HIV prevalence rate has stagnated over the past four years, meaning that the country is not managing to reduce the number of new HIV infections.
Damalie Andabati, the health specialist in our Uganda Country Office, says,
“Currently 6.3 percent of Uganda’s population is infected with HIV, and a new issue that has been discovered by the Uganda Virus Research Institute is that 66 percent of the new infections are among married couples.”
The reason for the high percentage in this unexpected group is not yet certain.
It is feared that HIV prevalence in Uganda may be rising again. It has been suggested that antiretroviral drugs have changed the perception of AIDS from a death sentence to a treatable disease. This perception may have reduced the fear surrounding HIV.
As part of our holistic outcomes around health, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV is part of the regular health screenings conducted for the parents and children at the child development centers.
Kansanga Child Development Center carried out a VCT session back in March and 233 caregivers and children were tested, which is one of the best success stories of beneficiaries being tested for HIV by Compassion Uganda.
Kansanga, a red-light district of Kampala, is a community in the slum areas, and the child development center is located one kilometer away. Much effort has been put in clearing this district of prostitution and raising awareness about preventing HIV. Many fear being seen going for the test or seeing the results they will receive from the test.
More than 60 percent of Uganda’s population is illiterate and ignorant, and others are even too poor to own radios from which they would hear information on where to go for testing. Our church partner staff, and government officials, are hopeful for the future — that with tireless effort in community training and sensitization this figure will be adjusted.
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I recently received the AIDS Initiative packet in the mail and found it very interesting, as well as moving. I really like that along with the testing comes counseling and much practical support for the kids and their families.
I pray that Compassion Uganda would be able to fight this disease, and find a way to inform people about testing.