By Richard Oyel
A top HIV/Aids specialist has warned of impending double jeopardy facing Ugandans as HIV infections rates rise due to the coronavirus pandemic while health funding for treatment falls or at best stagnates.
Mulago based Dr Stephen Watiti, who has been specializing in HIV/Aids research for over two decades, says the Covid-19 lockdown led to an increase in unprotected sex especially among young people who are not in school where there is enforced discipline.
Addressing the Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS) presentation of the a report on major challenges facing the health sector at Old Mulago on Wednesday, he cited the hundreds of pregnancies reported in single districts of schoolgirls during lockdown.
Dr Watiti said for every one hundred pregnancies, expects several times as many HIV infections.
Elaborating this he said: “In a normal menstrual cycle of 28 days, there is a window of only five days during which unprotected sex can result in pregnancy, while for all the days, it causes infection of one partner. More boys are also being infected in the idleness of the lockdown even when pregnancy doesn’t occur.”
Ugandan has been registering an average of 53,000 new HIV infections a year but the doctor now predicts far higher infections as a result of the pandemic which has kept the youths idle and out of institutional control.
Equally bad is the fact that the country’s annual 19,000 Aids deaths are set to rise. This is because the underfunding for the health sector may not be redressed fast enough.
Currently, a whopping 80% plus of the HIV/Aids funding is footed by donors (the United States PEPFAR) with the Uganda government meeting mostly the wage bill.
“The 52 Ugandans dying of Aids per day are set to increase,” he warned.
Moreover, even some of those who have been accessing ARV have got off treatment due to lack of sufficient food, which makes it terribly difficult for those living with Aids to take the medicines.
Besides the idleness of the youth under lockdown, the increase of Gender Based Violence is also blamed for the higher HIV infection rates.