Mbarara Faces Soaring HIV Cases: Complacency, Low Condom Use, and Poverty Blamed



The escalating HIV cases in Mbarara have raised concerns, with factors such as complacency, low condom use, and poverty, especially among teenage girls, being identified as major contributors to the surge.

Mbarara recently garnered attention for its high ranking in HIV/AIDS cases, recording 440 new infections this year, predominantly among teenage females and older men. Sex workers in the city, like Dorotia (pseudonym), attribute the spread of HIV to complacency and the reluctance of men to use condoms. Dorotia reveals that many of her colleagues initially enter the trade without the virus but quickly contract it due to some men removing condoms during intercourse.

Leaders in the region point to the financial dependence of teenage girls on older men, leading to cross-generational sex. Mbarara hosts over 7,000 sex workers in hotspots such as Ruti, Kijungu, Biharwe, Katete, and the central business district. Reports suggest that sex workers often engage in unprotected intercourse for higher fees.

Despite government efforts to train sex workers on the use of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PREP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV protection, many are yet to embrace these methods, leaving themselves vulnerable to the virus. The Uganda AIDS Commission has expressed concern over the drastic reduction in condom usage nationwide, contributing to the surge in HIV cases. Uganda has recorded 52,000 new HIV cases this year alone.

Michael Matsiko, the western region zonal coordinator for the Uganda AIDS Commission, also attributes the rising HIV infections to myths and misconceptions among many men, such as the belief that wet women do not spread the virus. Efforts to address these factors are essential to curbing the HIV epidemic in Mbarara and ensuring the well-being of its residents.