The Ministry of Health (MOH) has expressed deep concern over the increasing number of children living with HIV who are either discontinuing their medical care or experiencing a rise in viral load shortly after enrolling in school.
Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, revealed that a significant 28 percent of HIV-positive children are not receiving treatment, despite the policy mandating immediate enrollment for anyone testing positive.
Presently, there are an estimated 80,000 children living with HIV, but only 57,771 were on treatment by the end of the previous year. Additionally, 5,900 children acquired the infection in the same year.
This worrisome trend poses a threat to the country’s ambitious goal of ending AIDS among this demographic by 2030. Dr. Atwine spoke at the national launch of the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children by 2030, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the gaps in current interventions.
In response to the situation, the Ministry of Health has scheduled a meeting with the ministries of Education and Gender to develop a comprehensive plan.
Dr. Atwine highlighted the high risk of HIV infection among girls aged twelve to fifteen in Northern Uganda, where a recent inspection found a significant number of pregnant teenage girls.
Dr. Joshua Musinguzi, the AIDs Control Programme Manager, stressed the priority of preventing new infections among young women, citing them as the primary source of new cases in children.
The focus is on testing 81 percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers through the Early Infant Diagnosis program.
Records indicate that 79 percent of children exposed to the virus at birth test positive at the end of the 18-month follow-up period. Sadly, 3,800 children aged zero to 14 succumbed to AIDS last year.
Dr. Dan Byamukama expressed optimism about reversing this grim situation through the national launch of the alliance, emphasizing the need to address challenges related to equity, including the stigma that leads children to improperly adhere to their medication regimen, especially once they start school.