Uganda’s Reduction in HIV Prevalence Rate Could Lead to ‘False Sense of Security’
Although Uganda has been "hailed for several years as an AIDS success story," some HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned that the country's drop in HIV prevalence rate could lead to a "false sense of security," the Financial Times reports. The validity of the statistics, based on blood samples from prenatal clinics, "is open for debate," according to the Times. However, the statistics indicate that the HIV prevalence rate for pregnant women has "level[ed] off" at 6.5% -- down from about 30% in 1992 -- and UNAIDS estimates that 5% of the general adult population is HIV-positive, according to the Times. In addition, rates among high-risk groups, including truck drivers and sex workers, have fallen from 35% to between 12% and 15%. Although there has not been "one clear-cut explanation" for the country's reduced HIV prevalence rates, one "widely recognized" factor has been the government's involvement in addressing the epidemic (White, Financial Times, 4/15). Since 1986, Uganda has used the "ABC" HIV/AIDS prevention model; ABC stands for "Abstinence, Be faithful, or use Condoms." In addition, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has played a role in promoting the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/13). Museveni has been credited with "br[eaking] the silence surrounding the disease," the Times reports. In addition, "pioneering" nongovernmental projects have made a significant impact, according to the Times. Christine Oryema-Lalobo, Uganda program manager for Hope for African Children Initiative, said, "It all boils down to a question of openness. We've moved a long way, from almost zero openness to some kind of openness." But some observers are concerned that Uganda's lower prevalence rates may have "induced a false sense of comfort and [the belief] that sexual behavior could revert to what it was before the outbreak of the disease." Although the country has served as the "only example so far of a demonstrable reduction in HIV prevalence," further progress in the fight against the disease is "expected to be more difficult," especially in southern Uganda and in lakeside fishing villages, which are on a primary transport route, according to the Times. In addition, an HIV resurgence "cannot be ruled out," especially in displaced worker camps in the northern part of the country, the Times reports. A senior AIDS worker said that the camps have "[n]o hope, no entertainment, no services, no condoms," which could be considered a "recipe for a future epidemic" (Financial Times, 4/15).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.