HIV Positive Girls in Mbarara Abandon ARVS

Authorities in Mbarara city, western Uganda, are worried about the increasing number of people with HIV/AIDS discontinuing their antiretroviral therapy (ART). Dorcus Twinabaitu, Mbarara's HIV/AIDS focal person, reports that many young women and girls abandon treatment shortly after starting, which contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the community.

Between October and December, 3,441 young women and girls aged 20-29 enrolled in ART care, with an additional 3,273 enrolling between January and March. Twinabaitu highlights a notable rise in new HIV cases among young women and girls aged 15-29, compared to their male counterparts.

The high infection rates are partly due to young girls engaging in unprotected commercial sex with older men. From October to March, 628 women were diagnosed with HIV in Mbarara, compared to 408 men. Among young women aged 20-24, there were 185 new cases, and 158 cases among those aged 25-29, whereas young men had significantly lower numbers.

Micheal Matsiko from the Uganda Aids Commission's southwestern region, emphasized that the dropout rate of young women and girls from ART undermines efforts to suppress the virus and prevent further infections. He attributes the dropouts to a lack of awareness about the risks, drug fatigue, mobility, and stigma.

Dr. Stephen Asiimwe of the Uganda AIDS Commission raised concerns about the rising number of new infections in the Ankole region, which now has an HIV prevalence higher than the national average of 5.1%. With Mbarara district leading at 14.4%, and other areas like Kiruhura and Bushenyi also having high rates, the situation is critical. Only Buhweju and Mitooma have slightly lower prevalence rates.

Moses Bindeeba, an HIV-positive individual, called for the recruitment of sign language experts at health centers to support the deaf in managing HIV.

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