Govt to pay for all ARV treatment

By: Agatha Ayebazibwe

Kampala: All people living with HIV/Aids will be put on Anti-retroviral treatment following the latest government policy shift on treatment.

The new policy means that the 1.4 million people living with the virus become a direct responsibility of the government.

The policy has been adopted by the Ministry of Health following the World Health Organisation recommendations and will be effected this year.

Currently, only 577,600 people are on treatment, meaning the remainder 774,000 will be put on treatment this year, a shift that will more than double the current numbers being handled by government.

The strategy also calls for mandatory treatment of all positive adults in discordant relationships, HIV-infected patients with diagnosed active tuberculosis, HIV and pregnant women and HIV with severe chronic liver disease regardless of their CD4 count.

It also promotes treatment all people considered as Most At Risk Populations in the hotspots such as commercial sex workers, fishermen and children below 15 years.

The shift from the 2011 national guidelines follows the WHO 2013 guidelines that urge governments to initiate treatment in adults living with HIV when their CD4 cell count falls to 500 cells/mm³ or less – when their immune systems are still strong.

According to the Anti-Retroviral coordinator at the Aids Control Programme, Dr Alex Ario, the new policy will increase the number eligible people for treatment to about 1.2 million.

He said it should be coupled with funding for ARVs as well as additional costs needed for the management and treatment of people living with HIV.

“We are currently relying on PEPFAR and the Global Fund and a small contribution from the government of Uganda,” he said.

“The only way we are going to raise the money is through government budget allocation. We have been pushing for it. We hope that the next financial year, will take this into consideration,” he said.

The chairperson of the Uganda Aids Commission, Prof Vinand Nantulya, said the increase on the number of people on treatment will put pressure on funding.

“The 1.3 projection of people to be put on treatment this year is no mean feat. We have initiated nearly a half of this – 577,600, leaving a balance of 722,400,” he said.

HIV programmes are donor funded up to the tune 67 per cent, government funding at 10 per cent while individuals take 23 per cent.

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