Teenagers not taking HIV drugs, says report

In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use Truvada for adults at high-risk

A growing number of adolescents living with HIV are not taking the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that prevent the onset of Aids and minimise infecting other people, a new report warns.

The Annual Health Sector Performance report covering July 2022 to June 2023 shows that antiretroviral retention rates, which measures the number of people who continue to take the life-prolonging medications after they start on them, remain generally high.

However, the study found that one in five patients who started on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) had dropped out a year later, with the highest drop-out rate among adolescents.

Taking antiretrovirals as directed by health workers is a key element in preventing the onset of Aids on top of reducing the risk of transmission to others, and death, according to health guidelines from the World Health Organisation.

The report shows significant variation in compliance across the country, with some districts retaining only half of the people who started on ARVs 12 months later.

“ART retention rate at 12 months declined by six percent from 83 percent in 2021/2022 financial year to 77 percent by the fourth quarter of 2022/2023 financial year. Only six out of 146 [district]local governments achieved the target of 95 percent,” the report notes.

The six districts that achieved the target were Rubirizi, Mitooma and Kaabong at 100 percent, Abim at 99 percent, and Rubanda at 97 percent. Adherence was lowest in Karenga (59 percent), Kibuku (55 percent), Kween (52 percent), Kalungu (51 percent) and Nakapiripirit (48 percent), according to the report.

The regions with the highest ART retention were West Nile, Tooro, Ankole, Lango, and Bukedi. The worst-performing regions were Kampala and Bugisu, according to the report.

About 1.4 million Ugandans are living with HIV, of whom 1.2 million are on ART.

Dr. Nelson Musoba, the director general of the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC), blamed stigma for the declining adherence to treatment.

“Stigma and discrimination are the key factors that affect adherence and the more you give information and provide services, then that gets reduced,” he told this newspaper.

Dr. Musoba called for renewed efforts to address high infection rates and declining adherence among young people, particularly women.

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