Uganda: Govt for Testing Ugandans With HIV Positive Relatives

The government has revived its HIV testing guidelines of 2016 and started encouraging all family members with HIV positive patients to be screened.

The use of ‘target testing’ is being promoted alongside the current UNAIDS Test and Treat strategy.

“Targeted testing is where they test individuals with an aim of identifying other positive individuals in his family or community to fight the HIV pandemic,” Jennifer Ngabirwe, the Prevention Coordinator Makerere University Joint Aids Programme (MJAP), told The Observer recently.

“We are doing’ targeted testing’ to get about 300,000 people living with HIV but have not yet been started on ART,” Ngabirwe said.

She said, according to the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) report of 2016, about 1.3 million Ugandans are HIV positive, and out of these 56 per cent are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).

Ngabirwe said, since the resources for HIV testing have declined, they also target key population communities. The key populations include; fishermen at landing sites, commercial sex workers, track drivers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals, Transgender (LGBT).

“We have introduced partner notification whereby if we identify an individual who is HIV positive, we make them enlist their sexual partners from the last two months. Then we discuss with the client on how to notify them that they were exposed to HIV. However confidentiality is kept because we don’t tell the person about our source of information,” Ngabirwe said.

Dr Gloria Karirirwe, Care and Treatment Advisor MJAP said if a mother is HIV positive, they are targeting to test all her children below 13 years.

“We also have community targeted testing outreaches where we go to the community and encourage children to come,” she said.

Karirirwe said at the moment the country is managing the stock-out levels for HIV drugs and the UNAIDS approach of Test and Treat will not be affected.

“Anyone diagnosed HIV positive and is eligible or ready to start ART can start. Currently the drug stock-out levels in for Test and Start are stable, at least in Kampala,” she said.

According to Dan Byamukama, the Head HIV prevention at Uganda Aids Commission, in the UNAIDS approach, they advise 90 per cent of key populations with HIV to test and know their status. But they are not testing everybody because the resources are not enough.

“In the second 90, they advise 90 per cent of those tested and found HIV positive to start ART treatment immediately and in the last 90, they advise 90 per cent of those on treatment to be monitored well on their drugs to suppress the virus to have an HIV free generation by 2030,” he said.

According to the 2017 UNAIDS global report, by June that year, about 21 million people living with HIV were accessing ART, an increase from 17.8 million in 2015 and 8 million in 2010.

Now, UNAIDS estimates that $ 26.2bn will be required for the AIDS response in low and middle income countries by 2020.

According to 2017 presidential fast track-initiative to end HIV and AIDS in Uganda by 2030, Uganda’s efforts have brought down HIV prevalence rate from 18 percent in 90s to 6 per cent.

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