Kampala. Government has started constructing 207 health centre IIIs in some of the unserved sub-counties to bring health services closer to people, particularly those living with HIV/Aids.
Ms Sarah Opendi, the State Minister of Health (general duties), yesterday said the health facilities will boost access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) services.
Ms Opendi made the revelation in Kampala during the launch of the free to shine campaign, an initiative that seeks to reduce HIV/Aids among children, adolescents and young women by 2020.
The project is being implemented by the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/Aids. According to the [2016-2021] ruling NRM party manifesto, government aims at having a health centre III in each of the 1,403 sub-counties in the country. Currently, 390 sub-counties do not have health centre IIIs.
“Although there were initially 225 sub-counties, with the new created ones, the number of those without health centres has increased,” Ms Opendi said, adding that part of the money is from World Bank while the rest is a loan from the African Development Bank (AFDB).
The minister said each health facility will cost Shs500m.
The free to shine campaign will focus on retaining mothers living with HIV/Aids on treatment right from the time of conception until the end of 24 months when they wean their babies.
First Lady Janet Museveni, who launched the campaign, said although the number of children born annually with HIV has fallen from 250,000 to the current 4,000, there is still need to double efforts and ensure no baby is born HIV positive.
“It is bad news to think we are doing any better,” Ms Museveni said.
Although there has been a significant achievement in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids, Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the HIV/Aids programme at the ministry of health, said the high number of mothers dropping off treatment is still high.
“Whereas we reach most of the mothers, we seem to lose many to follow-ups. At least 20 per cent of these are lost in the third month. The mothers do not come back and neither do they bring back the children,” Dr Musinguzi said.
Long distances to health centres and stigma are some of the factors that have been attributed to poor retention rate of mothers living with HIV/Aids on treatment.
The campaign was first launched in Addis Ababa in January early this year by the OAFLA and the African Union.