KAMPALA, Uganda – Two months into the lockdown, which was a measure to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, and many Ugandans are struggling. Those living with HIV have been forced to break their routine because of the adverse effects of the antiretroviral drugs on an empty stomach, causing both nausea and dizziness.
According to government figures, Uganda has one of the highest rates in East Africa, with about 1.4 million people, or just over 3% of the population living with HIV/AIDS, 23000 people dying each year, and 50000 new infections.
Women who account for nearly 60 percent of adults living with HIV are disproportionately affected. New infections among young women aged 15–24 years are more than double those among young men, and the stigma and discrimination suffered by those living with HIV is quite prevalent.
UGANET, however, has made major strides to combat HIV/AIDS and protect affected individuals in the community against stigma and discrimination whilst ensuring their continued access to health care, even during these times of crisis.
Although Uganda’s Ministry of Health has also set up a programme to allow community health workers to collect antiretroviral drugs for patients, UGANET urges that these efforts should be stepped up.
“It is possible that not all of Ugandans, especially the vulnerable groups, are being reached and provided with the COVID-19 food relief. There are gaps and those suffering from HIV/AIDS are experiencing hardships due to this lockdown and the lack food,” said Dorah Kiconco, UGANET’s Executive Director.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS have already warned that the impact of the pandemic could be drastic if HIV services are closed, supply chains interrupted, and healthcare services overwhelmed. The United Nations also released a statement stating that a six-month interruption of antiretroviral therapy due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to over 500,000 deaths in Africa in the next five years.