The northern Uganda district of Oyam is grappling with the burden of HIV/AIDS infections which is already above the national prevalence rate of 6%, the district health department has disclosed.
According to Dr Thomas Malinga, the district health officer [DHO] Oyam, the district has seen increasing prevalence of HIV AIDS, a trend that could be attributed to promiscuity among the populace.
He says as a result, the district HIV/AIDS prevalence rate currently stands at 7 percent.
Out of a projected population of about 426,000 people, which makes it one of the heavily populated districts, Oyam has about 15,000 people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in their body.
Dr. Malinga also reveals that 1,700 children are also HIV Positive while two out of a hundred expectant mothers who turn up at the various health facilities for antenatal services test positive for the killer virus.
Scientists have also proven that there is a close link between HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis [TB] and according to Dr. Thomas Malinga, at least 850,000 people have been found to have TB nationally.
There is however a ray of hope according to Dr. Malinga because of the 15,000 people who are HIV positive, 98 percent have enrolled for Antiretroviral Therapy and are adhering to their drugs.
In 2014, UNAIDS committed its efforts to ambitious testing and treatment targets to end the AIDS epidemic.
By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
A research shows that, also by 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained anti retroviral therapy.
Also, by 2020, 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. The targets increase to 95 percent for testing, treatment, and viral suppression by 2030.
In Oyam, Dr Malinga says at least 90 percent of the people in the district know their HIV/AIDS statuses and that 94 percent on ART have viral load suppressed, an impressive figure above the target set by UNAIDS.
TND News Uganda also caught up with Winnie Akullo, an In-charge of Acimi Health Center II, soon to be upgraded to health center III, located about 20kms from Kamdini Township. Acimi serves a population of about 24,000 people.
Here, the in charge says they receive about 297 expectant mothers for antenatal visits on a monthly basis, adding “a greater percentage test positive for HIV/AIDS”.
Winnie Akullo says the facility has enrolled 500 people on antiretroviral Therapy and of these, 400 have adhered to the treatment and could have their viral load suppressed.
While the HIV/AIDS burden bites, Akullo says referral system for mothers who develop complications during deliveries is another nightmare. This is due to lack of ambulances and the long distance of referral facilities.
For instance, Pope John Paul Hospital Aber is 30kms away from Acimi.
Narrating with a lot of pain, Akullo says they recently lost a mother during labour after she developed complications and they could not immediately secure a vehicle to transfer her to the next referral point.
This, she adds has put the lives of many mothers at risk, including the unborn babies and yet some of these mothers are HIV positive and there is need to save their unborn babies from being infected with the virus.
“We are just a health center II, and we don’t have all the essential equipments, we are always in panic if a mother comes to deliver especially at night because we don’t know what could happen next,” Akullo said.
Meanwhile, Juspanti Apio (not real names) an HIV positive mother is expecting her baby in three months. She says she was fist scared when she tested positive but after getting counselling sessions from a medic, she has stuck to her drugs and is optimistic of delivering a healthy baby free of HIV/AIDS virus.
“ I have been taught to deliver from a health facility and I will just do exactly that for a healthy baby,” she excitedly told TND News Uganda.
The local leadership of Oyam especially the LC5 chairman, Nelsons Adea Akar acknowledges the challenges of the laps in the referral systems and says they are grateful to partners like Quam, a nongovernmental organization that has been providing ambulances for expectants mothers with complications in the district.
HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) indicates that the total number of adults and children of all ages living with HIV in Uganda is estimated to be approximately 1.3 million.
The 2016 UPHIA reports indicated a fall in HIV national prevalence at 6 percent compared to 7.3 percent according to the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey.
According to Mediplus Online, HIV stands for human immune deficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain cancers.
AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person.
The use of condoms has been highly promoted in Uganda as a measure of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS