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SPEACIAL REPORT: Consistent condom use reducing risk of new HIV infections

(Last Updated On: 26 November 2021)

Lira—26, November 2021: Uganda will join the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day on December 1, 2021 with the global theme, “End Inequalities. End AIDS.” The prevention means put in place to reduce HIV new infections and spread in communities should be considered at all times.

Further, and most important, continuous use of condoms for those with more than one sexual partner are one of the best interventions.

In Ugandan, distribution of free condoms through or by public health facilities has been suboptimal, and it has not reached everyone who needs them when they need them yet this is one of the best interventions in reducing new HIV/AIDS infections.

Although awareness creation about female condoms and ensuring sustainable supplies in order to promote female-controlled prevention also remains suboptimal, emphasis should be on redirecting condom distribution towards a total market approach so that less distribution takes place through the already overwhelmed public health facilities and more distribution via social marketing, community networks and commercial outlets.

In other words, much focus should be put on non-traditional outlets and places where high-risk sexual activity takes place or is negotiated. These places are lodges and hotels, brothel, bars, nightclubs, health clubs, recreation places; leisure centers, beauty salons and barber shops.

Other places for consideration should be street kiosks, fuel stations, sports stadia and transport hubs).

While interacting with one of the health workers attached to Ober Health Centre in Lira City West Division, on condition of anonymity, she said though the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is high and a good percentage of them on treatment at the facility, intervention to stop spread of [new] infections such as condom use should be promoted throughout.

“It’s now time to make both male and female condoms available and accessible everywhere as this will show a major achievement in 5-10 years,” he added.

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Samuel Okidi, a-19-year-old resident of Kamdini Town Council in Oyam district told me, “The government should prioritize condom distribution to the youth within communities as this will be one of the key methods in reducing HIV spread and infections in the hotspot area.”

The National HIV Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 shows that condom use with non-regular partners will be at 60% by financial year 2024/25.

A 36-year-old woman who lives in Teso Bar, Lira City West Division said, “We are already seen as spoilt members in the communities but women should also embrace use of female condoms, it shouldn’t be left only for men as some [men] may not be carrying condoms with them.”

According to Emilio Dirlikov, Health Service Branch Chief of Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Uganda, 1.42 million people are living with HIV; 90% identified, 90% on treatment and 90% virally suppressed.

CDC PEPFAR is comprehensively supporting service delivery for HIV prevention, care and treatment in seven (7) regions with six (6) Ugandan partner treatment for 700,000 Ugandans living with HIV. Also, additional programming for vulnerable population such as prisoners, female sex workers, adolescent girls and young women.

Steven J. Reynolds, Director US National Institute of Health, Uganda says CDC supports many surveys and epidemiologic studies such as Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessments (UPHIAs) on Impact Evaluation, Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV; Integrated Bio-Behavioral Surveys for HIV Key Populations, among others.

A short flashback, the National HIV Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 shows that Programmes for Adolescent Boys and Young Men (ABYM) like voluntary medical male circumcision was 68% in 2019 with a projection to reach 90% in 2025.

Percentage of adult male circumcised in 2021 is 68% from 61% in former year, and projected to reach 80% in 2022 as per national and district level 2020 targets of core public health HIV/AIDS services for HIV epidemic control in Uganda.

Other interventions enrolled in Uganda to reduce new infections bio-medically are use of antiretroviral drugs as treatment; PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP); vaccines trials, Microbicides, cure research, among others.

omaras@tndnewsug.com

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