UGANDA: ARV programme reaching less than half of those in need

Photo: IRIN
Augustine Kishangaki visits Elly Tumusine, a nurse and HIV-positive activist shortly after he bagan taking ARVs
kampala, 25 May 2007 (PlusNews) - A combination of limited resources, ignorance and TB co-infection mean that more than half of all Ugandans who need treatment today, do not have access to life-prolonging drugs, according to Emmanuel Otaala, Uganda's state minister for health.

Of the roughly one million Ugandans who are HIV-positive, an estimated 200,000 should be on treatment. The reality is, however, that only 90,000 are receiving the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that boost their bodies immune systems.

"We have never closed our doors to people who need ARVs, but 110,000 people who have overt AIDS are not accessing treatment," Otaala told PlusNews.

"Half of those not accessing the drugs are afflicted by opportunistic infections such as pulmonary tuberculosis, which complicates ARV treatment," he added, noting that TB usually needs to be cured before ARV therapy can begin. "The other half of the group, around 55,000 Ugandans, have simply never been tested or counselled," Otaala said.

The government had successfully started 'door-to-door HIV counselling' in the western district of Bushenyi, achieving 100 percent coverage, but lack of funds had prevented further outreach into other districts, he said.

"HIV testing and counselling are the entry point to ARV treatment, care and support," Otaala noted. "We have so many demands but limited resources."

Uganda's ARV programme has recently also been hit by supply-chain problems. In 2006, ARVs worth between $400,000 and $500,000 expired at the national medical stores.

Otaala said following that debacle, a new board of directors was appointed to the national medical stores and determined that the problem had been caused by worker negligence. "As a result, much of the staff was fired, including the managing director, in order to fill the posts with more competent officials," he added.


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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