Uganda to conduct door-door HIV testing

President Yoweri Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni

The Ugandan government plans to embark on an integrated door to door testing program for HIV, Malaria and Hepatitis B across the country.

Health minister Dr Elioda Tumwesigye says the program that will target Ugandans of 14 years and above and is expected to cost $150 million. He says that money will cover costs of personnel, counseling, cost of tests and cost of logistics involved.

“The ministry of Health expects to mobilize resources from government, corporate, development partners and individuals to roll out the programme in the next financial year. Awareness of HIV status can motivate individuals to further protect themselves against the infection or to protect their partners from acquiring the disease.” Dr. Tumwesigye said

According to a health ministerial policy statement, the HIV prevalence in Uganda stands at 7.3%. The document also shows that new infection declined from 147,000 in 2011 to 137,000 in 2013.

Meanwhile, uncoordinated distribution and distorted behavioral change messages have been blamed for hindering Uganda’s chance to maintain a successful campaign against HIV/Aids. During the 1990’s Uganda ran a successful campaign against HIV/ Aids through the distribution of behavioral change, which saw a huge reduction in HIV infections.

The messages focused on sensitizing members of the public about HIV infection, prevention and open disclosure of status. However, HIV prevalence has been increasing since 2002 and now stands at 7.3%. Dr. Christine Ondoa, the Director General, Uganda Aids Commission says this is largely attributed to the uncoordinated distribution and distorted behavioral change messages.

“As a result, government has revitalized the National AIDS Documentation and Information Centre (NADIC) in a bid to streamline all HIV/AIDS information before dissemination to the public and all stakeholders. We have setup an AIDS talk line at the center that will offer information on HIV/AIDS and refer clients to where they can find additional HIV/AIDS information and services,” she said.

The center will be conducting knowledge synthesis which will be repackaged into formats that are easy to use for programs and policies. Despite the fact that, the National AIDS Documentation and Information Centre was established in 1994, it wasn’t able to adequately reach the target population groups with HIV/AIDS information at the right time.

In a bid to improve interaction with the rural population, Ondoa says they plan to open a toll free line at the center where individuals can get information in their native languages.

Uganda is one of the three countries that contribute 48% of the new infections in Africa.  The other two countries are South Africa and Nigeria. In East Africa, Uganda still leads in the spread of new infections.