World AIDS Day 2023: Sexual Education An Intervention To Reduce High Infections Among Youths
By Tshepo Tlhacoane, South Africa ,South Africa
The PLATFORM for the NEEDY (PLANE), 1st December on World AIDS Day 2023, joins the international community in mourning those lost in the AIDS pandemic, and we reaffirm our commitment to do our part in reducing and ultimately eliminating new infections of HIV in Uganda.
This year’s international day’s theme: Let Communities Lead” and for Uganda it is: Ending HIV by 2030, keeping communities at the centre”.
The most recent statistics by the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) reveal that in the previous reporting cycle, which is a year, there were 52,000 new HIV infections in Uganda, raising the number of people living with HIV in Uganda to 1,400,000. Sadly, in the previous reporting cycle, there were also 17,000 AIDS-related deaths.
The statistics by the UAC also reveal that women are infected at almost twice the rate which men are. Of the 52,000 new infections, 30,000 are women, while 16,000 were men. The trend of women being infected at almost twice the rate of men is confirmed by the overall HIV statistics in Uganda which reveal that of the 1,400,000 people living with HIV, 860,000 are women, while 500,000 are men.
There are numerous identified factors that contribute to these statistics. The first is that testing is lower among men than women, something which is in part attributed to stigma. HIV-related stigma remains an issue with around one third of people in Uganda holding discriminatory attitudes towards people with HIV. This causes people to either refrain from testing or they hide their HIV status from others. This was confirmed by the People Living with HIV Stigma Index (2019).
Second, various laws and policies hinder Uganda’s HIV response and people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services. This includes the criminalization of HIV transmission and same-sex activities. Additionally, the fact that abortion is only permitted to save the woman’s life contributes to HIV transmissions, as women who have been sexually assaulted, for example, and contracted HIV without knowing, are unable to obtain an abortion and can transmit HIV to the foetus.
Third, behaviour change efforts, including HIV prevention campaigns and age-appropriate sexual education, have not been widespread enough to reduce HIV infections. Age-appropriate sexual education is critical in the fight against HIV in Uganda because HIV infections are not declining in adolescents as in other age groups. Additionally, of the adolescents diagnosed with HIV, two-thirds are girls.
Despite these impediments, it is also important to note the progress made in the fight against HIV. In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) established the 95-95-95 targets. The aim was to diagnose 95% of HIV positive individuals, provide Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for 95% of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated by 2030.
Of those targets, the most recent statistics by the UAC indicate Uganda to be at 90-94-94, meaning that 90% of HIV positive people are diagnosed, 94% of HIV positive people are receiving ART, and that 94% of those have achieved viral suppression.
In Fort Portal tourism city where PLANE operates the HIV prevalence stands at 17.8 percent, leading in the country and Kabarole district 10.6 percent. To reduce the prevalence, PLANE is committed to intensify the campaigns to educate the people and move to schools to conduct sexual education and utilization of condoms and PEP .