Some healthy Ugandans may be using forged “HIV” results while others are buying positive results from people who are genuinely ill to obtain free services offered by The Aids Support Organization (TASO), according to the head of the Parliamentary Committee on “HIV/Aids.” "I have received several complaints that there were people who were using forged/borrowed documents to get mainly social support like food from TASO centres or get ARVs and sell them to those who need them. Is this happening at your centre?" Dr. Tumwes asked TASO coordinator Ekideit at the biggest national hospital during a visit to the centre by committee members last week. She replied that "there were no such cases at the moment but that some had been detected in 2004 after re-screening clients ahead of the administration of free anti-retroviral drugs to treat Aids".
Dr. Tumwe said the government's National Strategic Plan for “HIV/Aids” for the next five years should include measures to prevent the use of fraudulent documents to access essential services. "We need to provide all people with essential items to avoid forgery. When we visited Arua last year, there was a lot of hunger'' he said. "People actually said they wished they had HIV, arguing that Aids patients are better off because they had access to food and other necessities." He said if the complaints about using forged results proved genuine, "Aids patients would be robbed of what they are entitled to", adding that "many are dying because they can't access the free ARVs." He called for the establishment of a national Aids fund to sustain the provision of ARVs to patients.
The Director of Capacity Building and Advocacy at TASO, said although 30,000 clients need ARVs, only 10,000 have access to them. Dr. Kekiti, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the main national hospital, said an estimated 950,000 (This prevalence is comparable to that in the US and has been like that since the Mid 80s not withstanding the fact that Uganda was/is an “HIV/AIDS” epicenter) people in Uganda are living with “HIV/Aids”, but only 90,000 are using the ARVs.
He said an estimated 200,000 Aids patients, of whom 43,700 are children, need the drugs but either can't find them or simply can't afford them. The cost of a month's dose of ARVs at a private medical clinic ranges from US $13 to US $15.
The Ministry of Health has set up TASO centres to provide counseling services to people living with Aids as well as medical services, material assistance to the most needy and child support in the form of school fees (read tuition assistance ) and scholastic materials.
On Saturday, the British medical journal The Lancet published a final evaluation of data from trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda on the effectiveness of male circumcision in curbing the spread of HIV in which researchers concluded that 'trial results indicate the practice could reduce a man's risk by as much as 65 per cent.'
But the scientists stressed that the same advocacy groups that had lobbied successfully for universal access to ARVs should now direct their efforts towards widespread encouragement and support for male circumcision.
On Friday, a PLUSNEWS report from western Kenya said requests at local hospitals for male circumcision have tripled since preliminary results from the studies in Kenya and Uganda were first made public several months ago. "The results of this study are definitely challenging the traditional views of the community,'' A physician at New Nyanza Provincial District Hospital, told the agency. He said male circumcision is not traditionally practiced in Nyanza but was a simple medical procedure requiring only a local anesthetic and a check up three days later.
After reports of the test results first emerged, the president of Uganda expressed misgivings, saying the findings were misleading and might encourage “reckless behaviour”. However, speaking to scientists in Entebbe on Friday, the director of the Makerere University Institute of Public Health, supported male circumcision.
"It is a good move as long as well planned because right now, there is no single approach to fighting “HIV”. This circumcision strategy was “good science” that needs to move to the policy level.''
Osagyefo holds a master's degree in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is currently studying for his PhD in a major US university. "Like the biblical Paul who saw light after hitting Damascus", Osagyefo has "seen the HIV/AIDS lie for what it is, and has just one regret — why it took [him] so long." The photograph is of a young Jomo Kenyatta: When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible. [A previous contribution from "A Son of the Pearl" is equally biting, and contains two comments that are extremely relevant to the present piece and the "GIGO" article below. Otis]