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Friday23 June 2017

Delivering as one to kick HIV/AIDS out of Karamoja

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Just a over a decade ago, Karamoja used to be a model region with the lowest HIV prevalence rates in Uganda despite the fact that it was neighboring the insecure northern region. According to the 2006 Uganda Health Demographic Survey, HIV/AIDS prevalence in Karamoja was at 3.5%.

But now that is history. The rates just escalated to 5.3%, from 3.5 % in 2006, compared to the national HIV/AIDS prevalence rate which stood at 7.3%. This is according to the 2014 National Housing and Population Report.

Perhaps this is due to Karamoja being a complex region. Spreading the word about HIV is not easy in Karamoja, where open discussions about sex are extremely unusual and the population is largely uneducated. Cultures and beliefs still contribute to never ending instances of HIV where Karamajong warriors believe HIV is for only the dressed people not forgetting the “acceptable cases” of courtship rape. According to the Makerere University Joint AIDS Program statistics, only 35 % of Karamojong men have accessed HIV/AIDS services, compared to 65 % of women.

The impact of HIV/AIDS in the region takes two dimensions- direct and indirect costs. The former being the cost of treatment associated with HIV related illness, which has serious implications for health care budgets around the region. Those segments of the population that are poverty-stricken stand to lose the most as pressures on the health budgets increases resulting in higher medical costs.

On the other hand, the Indirect costs means loss of value of production, the loss of current few wages, the loss of the present value of future earnings, training cost of new staff, high staff turnover, cost of absenteeism, higher recruitment costs, the drainage of savings, amongst others.

This is a very big blow to Karamoja which is largely an agro-pastoralist area and to large number of minerals including Gold, Limestone, Uranium, Marble, Graphite, Iron and Cobalt according to a 2011 Survey by Uganda Department of Geological Survey and Mines at the Ministry of Energy.

In a nutshell, this leads to a lower labour force, diminished labour productivity through absenteeism and illness, increasing cost pressures for companies through benefit payments and replacement costs, lower labour income, as employees bear some of the AIDS-related costs, lower population translating into lower expenditure, increased private sector demand for health services and higher government expenditure on health services.

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