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Uganda and AIDS

Uganda, one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to experience the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS and to take action to control the epidemic, is one of the rare success stories in a region that has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the rate of new infections continues to increase in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda has succeeded in lowering its very high infection rates. Since 1993, HIV infection rates among pregnant women, a key indicator of the progress of the epidemic, have been more than halved in some areas and infection rates among men seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections have dropped by over a third.

In the capital city Kampala, the level of HIV infection among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics fell from 31% in 1993 to 14% by 1998. Meanwhile, outside Kampala, infection rates among pregnant women under 20 dropped from 21% in 1990 to 8% in 1998.

Elsewhere, among men attending STI clinics, HIV infection rates fell from 46% in 1992 to 30% in 1998.

Success in reducing the prevalence of HIV in Uganda is the result of a broad-based national effort backed up by firm political commitment, including the personal involvement of the head of state, President Yoweri Museveni. Sex education programmes in schools and on the radio focused on the need to negotiate safe sex and encouraged teenagers to delay the age at which they first have sex. The also issued free condoms. Meanwhile more teenage girls reported condom use than any other age group -- a trend reflected in falling infection rates among 13-19 year old girls in Masaka, in rural Uganda. And among 15-year-old boys and girls, the proportion who had never had sex rose from about 20% to 50% between 1989 and 1995.