Uganda is among the first three lucky African countries to receive a generic version of the latest AIDS drug that improves and prolong lives of whose suffering severe side effects and resistance to other treatments
Uganda is classified as a high burden country by UNAIDS, the international agency that is at the helm of mustering a joint response to the disease.
A generic of Dolutegravir (DTG), first approved in the United States in 2013, is being given to 20,000 patients in Kenya before being rolled out in Nigeria and Uganda later this year, with the backing of global health agency Unitaid.
DTG is the drug of choice for people with HIV in high-income countries who have never taken antiretroviral therapy before and for those who have developed resistance to other treatment. It is also easier to take than currently used formulations (one small tablet taken daily), and patients are less likely to develop resistance.
According to a 2013 UNAIDS report, Uganda’s HIV prevalence– the number of people living with HIV (new cases added onto those already infected) at a specific point in time expressed as a percentage of the population– is the highest at 7.3%, followed by Kenya at 5.3%, Tanzania (3.0%) and Burundi (1.1%).
The report says young women in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk of HIV-AIDS, with 75% of new infections among adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19. In 2013, HIV prevalence among young people aged 15-24 in Uganda was estimated at 4.2% for women and 2.4% men respectively.
The UNAIDS report noted that every week, at least 570 young women aged 15-24 get infected with HIV in Uganda. In Africa, Uganda is second to South Africa where 2,363 get infected with HIV over the same period, compared to 491 for Tanzania,468 for Kenya, and only 25 for Rwanda.
But HIV prevalence also remains higher in key populations particularly sex workers (35%-37%); fisher folk (22%-29%), long distance truck drivers (25%), uniformed services personnel (18.2%) men who have sex with men (13.7%) and boda-boda taxi men (7.5%).
The Ministry of Health estimates that by the end of 2015, about 1.46 million people in Uganda were living with HIV. The HIV prevalence in the general population increased from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% by 2011. The number of people enrolled on antiretroviral therapy (ART) increased from about 330,000 in 2011 to about 750,896 in 2014.