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Women protest against Uganda’s lack of Aids drugs

Hundreds of women with Aids protested in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, against the current shortage of Aids drugs for Aids patients.

The women waved placards in a peaceful demo and then handed a petition to the speaker of the Ugandan parliament, urging the government to urgently make the anti-retroviral drugs more widely available.

"We are demonstrating to show the world the commitment of women to the fight against AIDS," said Agnes Apea from the National Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids (NACWOLA).

"We are asking the government to increase the investment in HIV- preventive measures,” she told the German press agency, dpa. “We want the drugs to reach the hospitals because people are dying," she added.

Supplies of Aids drugs in the east African country are inadequate and health centres are turning patients away, admitted the government-run Uganda Aids Commission.

"These women who are demonstrating have a cause,” agreed the commission’s spokesperson, James Kigozi. Most of the handout points for the drugs across the country are no longer taking on new patients. “The hospitals are turning them away because of the shortage of drugs," he told The Earth Times online news service.

Dr Fiona Kalinda, at the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Kampala said: "The dilemma here is that we made a promise to patients. If they came here for HIV care, we said if you qualify for treatment, you'll get treatment. Now we have to tell them to go elsewhere."

About 400,000 people living in Uganda need anti-retroviral drugs, according to health officials. But only about half of that number is getting the medication.

Women in Uganda have been hit hard by HIV/Aids virus and many suffer violence at the hands of men, who accuse them of bringing the virus to the family. This prevents many women from even seeking treatment, because they are too scared to reveal their status.

There are an estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in Uganda, which includes 120,000 children. About 61,000 people there died from Aids in 2008 and 1.2 million children have been orphaned by Uganda's epidemic, according to figures from Aids charity, Avert.

The management of Uganda’s whole anti-retroviral drug supply chain is very poor.  But the country aims to solve its drug supply problems by making its own generic drugs. The drugs will be produced by a pharmaceuticals factory in Kampala which, at full capacity, will produce two million tablets a day.

Globally, more than a million women a year die of AIDS.

Hayley attribution