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At a glance: HIV in Uganda

The first African country to reverse its HIV epidemic  

Key statistics

In 2020:

  • 1.4 million people with HIV

  • 5.4% adult HIV prevalence 

  • 38,000 new HIV infections 

  • 22,000 AIDS-related deaths 

  • 1.3 million people on antiretroviral treatment 

Progress towards targets

The current targets for HIV testing and treatment are called the 95-95-95 targets and must be reached by 2025 in order to end AIDS by 2030.

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Did you know?

Uganda has rapidly expanded viral load monitoring in recent years – in 2016 only around half of people on HIV treatment could test their viral load, now this is offered as a standard part of HIV care. 

Prevention

Preventing HIV in Uganda focuses on: 

  • prevention of mother-to-child transmission  
  • voluntary medical male circumcision 
  • social and behaviour change communication 
  • male and female condoms 
  • addressing gender-based violence, particularly for adolescent girls and young women 
  • PEP  
  • PrEP 
  • needle and syringe programmes  
  • management of sexually transmitted infections, including partner infections  
  • a range of prevention services for young people, particularly adolescent girls and young women 
  • closely linked to HIV testing services.  

Did you know?

Uganda began offering needle and syringe programmes in 2017. And in 2020 it began piloting opioid substitution therapy. 

Testing

Testing for HIV is: 

  • lower among men than women  
  • available in health facilities, in community settings, workplaces and in people’s homes  
  • offered to the partners and children of people newly diagnosed with HIV, with that person’s consent (called partner notification and index testing) 
  • targeted at people from groups that are most at risk of infection, through community-based testing campaigns. 

Did you know?

In 2019, Uganda made free HIV self-testing kits available from public health facilities, and to buy from pharmacies. 

Treatment

Treatment for HIV is: 

  • free 
  • started as soon as someone tests positive 
  • monitored by viral load testing 
  • available as a 3-6 month supply and from community pick-up points (for people who have been on treatment for a stable length of time and have suppressed viral loads) 
  • available for group collection: up to six people can form a group then take turns in picking up treatment refills (for people on stable treatment with suppressed viral loads) 
  • available via drop-in centres and ‘moonlight’ (after hours) clinics 
  • first-line treatment is an antiretroviral regimen that contains Dolutegravir, which is recommended by the World Health Organization as it has fewer side effects than older generations of HIV drugs. 

Did you know?

Due to rapidly expanding HIV treatment, the number of AIDS-related deaths in Uganda halved between 2010 and 2020. 

Local context

Uganda began the first national AIDS control programme in 1986 and was the first African country to begin to reverse its HIV epidemic.  

Over the past decade, the number of people getting HIV has fallen significantly, but Uganda’s HIV infection rate is still one of the highest in the world.

Most new infections occur among marginalised groups and adolescent girls and young women. Women are almost twice as likely as men to get HIV. 

HIV infections are not declining as rapidly among adolescents as other age groups. Two-thirds of adolescents diagnosed with HIV are girls.  

HIV prevalence among sex workers is estimated to be as high as 35%, 14% among men who have sex with men and 23–35% among fishing communities. 

Various laws and policies continue to hamper Uganda’s HIV response and people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services (for example, the criminalisation of HIV transmission and same-sex activities). Abortion is only allowed to save a woman’s life.  

Behaviour change efforts – including age-appropriate sex education, and targeted HIV prevention campaigns – have not been widespread enough to reduce HIV infections as much as is needed. While intimate-partner violence, which helps to drive HIV, remains common. 

HIV-related stigma remains an issue. Around one-third of people in Uganda hold discriminatory attitudes towards people with HIV. The People Living With HIV Stigma Index (2019) found that around a third of people with HIV hide their status from others.  

Ugandan’s HIV response faces significant resourcing challenges. This is partly due to a reduction in funding from international donors, which the country’s HIV programmes have previously relied upon. In 2014, the Ugandan Government set up the AIDS Trust Fund to raise more domestic resources for HIV. This has generated funds by taxing alcohol and bottled water. Other initiatives include the private-sector-led One Dollar Initiative (ODI), which began in 2018 and aims to raise one billion dollars.

Next: At a glance: HIV in Zambia

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  • Last updated: 17 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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