Rising Concerns Over HIV Treatment Dropouts Among Young Women in Mbarara City

Mbarara. Health experts in Mbarara City have expressed concern about the rising dropout rates among people living with HIV who are receiving care. During a media training session on Tuesday, Dorcus Twinabaitu, the HIV focal person in Mbarara City, revealed that many young women and girls stop their treatment a few months after being enrolled in clinics and starting on antiretroviral therapy (ARVs).

Twinabaitu highlighted the alarming nature of this trend, noting that these girls contribute to the spread of HIV when they return to their communities without continuing their treatment. Between October and December, 3,441 young women and girls aged 20-29 were enrolled in care, but this number dropped to 3,273 from January to March.

She pointed out a significant increase in new HIV cases among young women and girls aged 15 to 29 compared to young men and boys of the same age. The high number of new infections is attributed to many young girls engaging in unprotected commercial sex with men over 45 due to economic reasons, posing a considerable challenge.

In Mbarara City, the number of new HIV cases from October last year to March this year is higher among women than men. During this period, 628 women were diagnosed with HIV compared to 408 men. The prevalence is particularly high among young women, with 185 cases among those aged 20 to 24 and 158 cases among those aged 25 to 29. In contrast, there were only 34 cases among boys aged 20 to 24 and 91 cases among those aged 25 to 29.

Micheal Matsiko, head of the Uganda AIDS Commission Southwestern region, stated that the drop in care among young girls and women negatively impacts the fight against HIV. The goal of suppressing the virus to reduce the risk of transmission is not being achieved. He attributed the dropouts to ignorance of the dangers, fatigue from daily medication, and the mobility of individuals trying to keep their condition secret.

Dr. Stephen Asiimwe, head of Research at the Uganda AIDS Commission, also expressed concern over the increasing number of new infections. This rise has led to HIV prevalence in the Ankole region being higher than the national average of 5.1%. Except for Buhweju and Mitooma, which have slightly lower HIV prevalence, the other 10 districts and 1 city in the Ankole region report higher rates, with Mbarara District having the highest prevalence at 14.4%, followed by Kiruhura at 9.5%, Mbarara City at 8.1%, Isingiro at 3.0%, Ibanda at 7.3%, Ntungamo at 5.9%, Sheema at 7.5%, Bushenyi at 9.2%, Buhweju at 3.8%, Mitooma at 4.7%, and Rubirizi at 6.1%.

Moses Bindeeba, a person living with HIV, called on the government and other stakeholders in the fight against HIV to recruit sign language experts at health centers to assist the deaf.

Source URN

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