HIV-positive women in Masaka district are complaining of harassment by their husbands, a serious threat that may lead them to acquire drug-resistant HIV strains. A recent study says the prevalence of drug-resistant HIV strains in Uganda has risen from 8.6 percent to 12 percent in the last five years.
Some of these women enrolled on Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) at Masaka Uganda Cares Centre, said that their husbands do not want to use protective methods such as condom use.
On Friday, the affected women petitioned Phoebe Kyewalyanga, the Speaker of Masaka District, seeking assistance from the local leaders who can counsel their husbands to stop harassing them sexually. Kyewalyanga is also a female district councilor representing Buwunga sub-county.
A 40-year-old primary school teacher who only identified herself as Jacent, a resident in Buwunga Sub County, explained to Kyewalyanga that she tested HIV-positive in 2009 and has been enrolled for ARVs for the last three years. She however says her husband refused to go for treatment after she realized that he was also infected with the disease.
Jacent is among the 1000 HIV-positive women enrolled for ARVs at Masaka Uganda Cares Centre.
Jacent, a mother of four children said that her life is at risk because her husband has denied her a chance to negotiate for condom use. She says she at risk of being re-infected.
Kyewalyanga described the act of an HIV-positive man having unprotected sex with his wife as torture and that such men should be punished for sexually assaulting their wives.
Dr. Stuart Musisi, the Masaka District Health Officer, said that if both the husband and wife are already HIV-positive, it is possible to get re-infected with another strain of HIV.
Dr. Musisi warned that the HIV-positive strain of a person who is not on drugs can be more hostile than that of a person who is on treatment and this could result into a strain that is resistant drugs.
Dr. Musisi advised couples that safer sex using a condom is very important to prevent them from getting new HIV infections.
He said that the district health department has not received enough condoms from the National Medical Stores yet a condom is 20 times safer than not using it.
He said that in the last eight months his department has distributed over 10,000 condoms to the vulnerable communities especially at the landing sites and towns.
The HIV prevalence in Masaka district is at 11 percent, much higher than the national rate at 7.3 percent.
A recent study by PharmAccess African Studies to Evaluate Resistance (PASER), says the prevalence of drug-resistant HIV strains in Uganda has risen from 8.6 percent to 12 percent in the last five years, one of the highest rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the study was based on results from Kampala, Fort Portal and Mbale.
The PASER monitoring cohort study report for 2008-2012 found that the prevalence of transmitted drug resistance among people who have never used ARVs was substantially higher in Uganda.
ARVs were available at least five years earlier in Uganda than in the five other PASER countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where drug resistance was estimated at 5 percent.
In June, the minister of Health Dr Christine Ondoa released the 2011 results of Uganda AIDS indicators survey indicating that 7.3% of adults age 15 to 49 in the country are living with HIV.
The survey was conducted from February to September 2011 and interviewed 11,340 households and 12,153 women and 9,588 men aged 15-59.
The results show that HIV prevalence rate is 8.3% and 6.1% in women and men respectively, and it indicated that 11% of women in urban areas have a higher HIV prevalence rate than those in rural areas at 8%.
In the central region which includes Masaka, the prevalence rate was put at 10.6%, 4.1% in mid eastern region, West Nile at 4.9%, and South Western 8%.