Public health programmes in Uganda are seriously short of money, putting the lives of tens of thousands of HIV-positive people at risk, says a new report. The shortage was most acutely felt by thousands of HIV-positive Ugandans who needed antiretroviral (ARV) treatment but could not afford it and were not covered by free, donor-funded ARV programmes. Government estimates put the number of people in need of ARVs at 150,000 to 200,000 but existing programmes have only managed to put 78,000 people on treatment.
HIV prevalence has remained stable at about six percent for the past five years, and observers have questioned whether this was the result of pouring too much money into treatment and not enough into prevention: according to the Uganda AIDS Commission, in 2005 just 12 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women received ARVs to prevent transmission of the virus to their unborn children.
However, Dr Sam Onkware, another senior health official, said that while having so many people on treatment was a positive development, the presence of healthy HIV-positive people in society could reinforce the idea that treatment was a solution in and of its own, leading the rest of the population to become complacent.