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Uganda: Government Rejects Experts Call for Early HIV Treatment
  Ismail Musa Ladu
28 January 2011
Kampala - Infectious disease specialists' want therapy for patients diagnosed with HIV/Aids to be administered as soon as they have been tested positive to protect them against opportunistic diseases like tuberculosis. However, the government will not heed the call on the grounds that it is not financially sustainable.
According to a specialist, Dr Mark Nelson, a HIV patient should start takings antiretroviral (ARV) among other medications before the immune system gets weaker or (CD4 count fall below 500). "Studies have indicated that early therapy reduces risks of catching opportunistic diseases, and it also reduces chances of developing heart and brain diseases," Dr Nelson said during a workshop in Kampala on Tuesday.
At the moment, not until a HIV patient's CD4 count falls between 200 and 350 is he or she prescribed ARVs medication. HIV-negative people have CD4 counts between 600 and 1200 CD4 cells per cubic millimetre. HIV- infected people have counts that are typically less than 500, and people with HIV/Aids can have 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimetre or fewer.
"What the specialists are saying is true but as a country, we do not have the resource to afford that kind of project," the National Medical Stores (NMS) General Manager, Mr Moses Kamabare, said in an interview yesterday.
The Assistant Commissioner for National Disease Control, Dr Issa Makumbi, said to start giving HIV patients ARVs is a policy matter that has been reached after several considerations, among them, the resource factors.
Dr Zainab Akol, a specialist in HIV therapy, said the current prescription of ARVs to HIV patient is the best the country can offer. "We do not have enough ARVs for everybody that is why we do not prescribe it to patients immediately," Dr Akol said. "We only give it when you really need it (sick) because that is when it will be effective," she added.
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