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February 5, 2023
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MPs alarmed by rising HIV/AIDS infections on islands

By Mukembo Wilfred

Parliament’s Committee on Health has been apprised on the rising new   HIV/AIDS infections in the island districts of Buvuma and Kalangala, which jeopardise the dreams to have zero new infections by 2030.

Dr. Rogers Besigye, the coordinator of the Rakai Health Service Programme told the committee that the rise in new infections is occasioned by the difficulty in transporting antiretroviral drugs, which would suppress patients’ viral loads and therefore, curtail new infections.

But that is not the case, he said, due to transport challenges which adversely affect health services delivery.
“We are authorized by NMS to get drugs from health centres which have excess since people find difficultly in picking them [antiretroviral drugs] and take them to other islands health facilities deep inside lake Victoria,” said Dr Besigye.

“When HIV patients take ARVs as recommended, the virus is suppressed and cannot reinfect which has helped to bring the prevalence rate of Kalangala to 18 per cent which was much higher sometime back,” he added.

The committee is conducting oversight visits to the island districts of Buvuma and Kalangala, and have formed a sub-committee to specifically look at the issue of health service provision in islands, led by Hon. Irene Muloni (Indep.,Bulambuli District).

Kalangala District Health Officer (DHO), Dr. Hilary Bitakala noted that the total population of the 84 scattered Islands is 34,766 people but that with rising infections attributed to immorality and difficulty in accessing health services, the island’s infections are three times higher than the national average, a cause for alarm.

In Buvuma, the committee learnt that boat ambulances which were provided to Island districts have not yet helped in transporting sick people to the main land for referrals since no funds for fuel have been provided, further exacerbating the crisis.

Buvuma , which is made up of 52 Islands with a population of over 180,000 people also needs road ambulances, or boda boda ambulances to transport patients to lake shores to get on the boats or boat ambulances.

On assessing the health profile of the island districts, the committee agreed that the islands will need special attention from Parliament, to better the health services provisions there.

Buvuma District Health Officer (DHO), Dr. Baker Kanyike, noted that in order to improve health services in Island districts, government has to urgently operationalize the boat ambulances and also fund other feeder boats which would connect from an island to another to solve the transportation crisis.

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