UGANDA—The Uganda AIDS Commission has unveiled concerning statistics indicating a rising trend of HIV infections among young girls aged between 16 to 28 years in both Mbarara city and district.  

The prevalence rates stand alarmingly at 8.4% and 14%, respectively, posing a significant public health challenge. 

In an exclusive interview with local media outlet the Nile Post, Dorcus Twinabeitu, the HIV focal person for Mbarara city, highlighted the gravity of the situation. 

 As of March 2024, the number of individuals confirmed to be living with HIV in Mbarara City reached 31,852, compared to 31,764 recorded between October and December 2023. 

Twinabeitu emphasized that girls aged 15 to 28 are disproportionately affected, attributing this trend to various factors, including rampant alcohol consumption, low condom usage, poverty, and reluctance to uptake antiretroviral therapy (ARVs). 

The proliferation of educational institutions, particularly universities and tertiary colleges, has contributed to the vulnerability of young girls striving to meet societal standards amidst financial constraints. 

 Tragically, many resort to transactional sex with older, economically stable individuals, increasing their risk of HIV infection. 

Dr. Steven Asiimwe, the HIV prevention officer for Mbarara, underscored Mbarara district’s unfortunate distinction as the highest HIV prevalence area within the Ankole subregion. 

The prevalence rates across the region paint a sobering picture, with Mbarara city at 8.1%, Kiruhura at 9.5%, and Bushenyi at 9.2%. 

Kiruhura’s prevalence is partly attributed to cultural practices such as partner sharing, while Bushenyi faces challenges due to the vulnerability of young university girls engaging in risky sexual behaviors. 

Southwestern Uganda’s HIV prevalence exceeds the national average of 5.1%, reflecting a pressing need for targeted interventions.  

Despite these alarming statistics, there is a glimmer of hope in the fight against HIV in urban centers. 

 Increased awareness campaigns on condom use, self-testing, and mother-to-child transmission prevention have begun to yield positive results, slowing down the rate of virus transmission. 

According to Twinabeitu, Mbarara city’s lower prevalence compared to the district and Kiruhura indicates a growing awareness of preventive measures such as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), as well as the importance of condom usage among the populace .

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