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Free Aids treatment for 32,000 more Ugandans

Some 32,000 people living with HIV in Uganda will be offered free life-lengthening treatment over the next two years after a sea change in US funding.

The new funding from the US government will double the number of Ugandans receiving free anti-retroviral treatment (ARV), the east African country’s parliament heard yesterday.

This is good news because Americans have been helping only 36,000 people,” said Dr Kihumuro Apuuli, director general of the Uganda Aids Commission. “But they have doubled this number beginning this financial year,” Dr Apuuli told MPs.

It marks a change of heart by the Obama Administration, which said previously that it would not up its current level of funding committed through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), an initiative of the American government.

We are talking about an increment of between $20 million- $30 million, said Ms Joann Lockard, from the US embassy in the capital, Kampala. “Our funding for HIV/Aids now stands at $300 million,” she told the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper yesterday.

But despite the funding boost, Dr Apuuli told MPs that Uganda needs more than £370 million to combat the epidemic and will need to find new ways to tackle the rising number of infections. “The Americans have increased funding but they are telling us to either swim or drown if we don’t reduce the new infections,” Dr Apuuli said. “For instance last year we registered 124,000 new infections compared to 110,000 in 2008. This means in the next two to three years 14,000 more will need ARVs.

The number of Ugandans living on HIV treatment – drugs that reduce HIV in the body and postpone the onset of Aids – had risen from 10,000 a decade ago to nearly 200,000, many of them getting donor-funded treatment. But Ugandan figures show that an extra 300,000 Ugandans in need of ARVs do not have access to the drugs because they cannot afford them, and that an extra 124,000 become infected every year, increasing the number of those who need treatment.

About 1.1 million Ugandans are living with HIV, including 120,000 children, according to estimates by Aids charity, Avert. An estimated 61,000 people died from AIDS in 2008 and 1.2 million children have been orphaned by Uganda's devastating epidemic. Women are affected, more than men and 57per cent of all adults living with HIV are women. Ugandan women tend to marry and become sexually active at a younger age than men, and often have older and more sexually experienced partners. 

Hayley attribution