GoU Plans Forced HIV Test for All Patients

I read in today’s Monitor that the Government of Uganda is planning to require all those who attend a health centre or hospital to have an HIV test. Whilst I understand why some will support such a policy, there will be others who will resist it, especially from a human rights perspective.

It is very important that we all have regular HIV tests and that we know our own status and that of our partner(s). Usually this is done on a voluntary basis in which we rely on an individual coming forward for counselling and testing, VCT. Sometimes counselling and testing is initiated by a health service provider, PITC, e.g. when women attend ante-natal or a man comes forward for safe male circumcision.

A policy which mandates testing will need to be carefully planned and we will need sufficient time to allow for wide and full discussions regarding the issues that will follow.

  • Is it right for the GoU to ask health workers to enforce such a policy, especially if the patient is refusing?
  • Are there enough, adequately trained, and skilled, counsellors to ensure that patients receive all relevant information to enable informed consent?
  • Will we be able to enrol all those that test positive onto the necessary care and treatment programmes, ART?

HIV prevalence is on the increase in Uganda and more people are becoming infected than the number of those that are started on treatment, so yes we need to improve Prevention. Testing accompanied with enrolment onto treatment programmes is an essential prevention measure, I’m just not convinced making it compulsory will work here and the backlash may in itself prove detrimental to other prevention campaigns.

HIV Counselling and Testing in Makindye

An essential step in helping to prevent the transmission of HIV is to be able to access testing and from that to know your status.

In the last few years, Hope Clinic Lukuli, Touch Namuwongo and our recent SMC Programme have, between them, provided HIV counselling and testing (HCT) to more than 70,000 adults in the Makindye division of Kampala.

From those tested, some 2,300 have been enrolled into treatment programmes and of those, 725 are currently receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART).

1-1 Counselling by Touch Namuwongo during HCT in Makindye

Male Circumcision Programme in Tanzania reaches 100,000

The Maternal and Child Integrated Programme, MCHIP, announced this week that its safe male circumcision programme in Tanzania had now provided services to 100,000 clients. You can read the original press release by clicking on the image below.

MCHIP Logo

Estimations show that 16,000 future HIV infections will be averted between now and 2025 as a result of these 100,000 circumcisions. If accurate this means that for every one pound or one dollar invested in the SMC programme, about 14 will be saved in future treatment costs.

I shared this news with our own team and here’s the reply back from Francis, the in-charge at Hope Clinic Lukuli:

This is extremely very good news for East Africans. Overall, I think the success in TZ can be attributed to the immense family support for men going for VMMC as the article does note. For example, a son and his mother accompanying a father to the VMMC CENTRE and also availing himself (son) for the VMMC is extremely awesome. Also, not forgetting the hard work of the local medical team, the nurses.

For Uganda, there is a lot to learn from TZ especially how can we have full family support for men in Uganda to get the numbers we desire for VMMC? Also can we have work places support the VMMC so that men who work can benefit fully from this? Can registering, HCT and STI treatment and carrying out the procedure in one day work better than giving appointments? Lastly, why do some men register and never show up?

VMMC – voluntary medical male circumcision

SMC – safe male circumcision

These are the same, just referred to differently in different places.

HCT – this is the counselling and testing for HIV, an integral part of an SMC programme and sometimes also referred to as VCT.

Advent: Day 9 HIV/AIDS

One of our Touch clients receiving his HIV/AIDS test result

 

IMF has a number of community based programmes helping to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. We provide counselling and testing, help those who are negative to stay safe and for those that are positive we are able to help with treatment and care.

Uganda has in past years been very successful in tackling this huge problem but there are now worries that the trend is moving up again.

HIV/AIDS prevalence may be on the rise again in Uganda, there are a reported 360 new infections per day.

Dr. Richard reported some time back about Edward one of our patients very sick with HIV/AIDS and TB. This shows the importance of our community work; we need to get to people sooner, before they become so ill.