Some HIV-Positive Ugandans’ Not Receiving ARVs

Some HIV-positive people in Uganda “cannot be put on the national antiretroviral [ARV] programme because it is already saturated and funds for new patients are not available,” the Independent reports. According to the newspaper, roughly 360,000 HIV-positive Ugandans are eligible for antiretroviral treatment because their CD4 counts are below the WHO’s threshold of 350; however, about half of them currently do not have access to ARVs.

According to the Independent, Uganda’s ARV program “is 95% donor-funded,” which includes donations from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Uganda’s current allocation for malaria drugs and ARV treatment is $30 million, and the government has budgeted the same amount of money for the 2009/10 fiscal year, according to the publication (Katende, 8/18).

In a recent New Vision opinion piece – John Hoover, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Mission in Uganda –addressed the shortage of ARVs in the country. He wrote that Uganda is “losing ground” in its fight against HIV/AIDS. “Even with the unprecedented level of funding provided collectively by the Government, the U.S., and other partners to fight HIV/AIDS, there is now a potentially tragic and growing gap between national needs and the funds available to meet them,” Hoover writes. He points out that the Global Fund will “resume funding in Uganda,” which will “help address the resource gap.” “America’s commitment will not waver, despite the budget pressures caused by the economic crisis,” he writes, adding, “[b]ut without renewed commitment from the Government and from Ugandans to halt the spread of HIV, no amount of money from the U.S., or other development partners ultimately will prevail” (Hoover, 8/6). 

In other coverage, IRIN examines how food shortages in parts of Uganda are causing HIV-positive people to abandon their ARV regimens “in droves.” According to the news service, “leaders fear that unless more food becomes available, they will soon be dealing with drug resistance and death.” IRIN writes: “Poor nutrition weakens the body’s defences against the virus, hastens progress from HIV to AIDS, and makes it difficult to take [ARVs] … Sufficient food can help reduce some side-effects of [ARVs] and promote adherence to drug regimens” (8/18).

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