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Uganda’s Health Ministry Orders Investigations Into Deaths Of Patients Living With HIV

Uganda’s Health Ministry announced Monday it has ordered investigations into whether the deaths of 17 patients living with HIV in Northern Uganda were caused by their inability to get antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, the AP/mlive.com reports. According to Zainab Akol, manager of the ministry’s HIV/AIDS control program, the ministry is exploring “whether apart from the lack of ARVs, another disease like malaria or any epidemic could have contributed to the deaths,” according to the news service.

The article examines assertions that Uganda is exepriencing a shortage of antiretrovirals. Akol “attributed the shortage of antiretroviral drugs to a sharp increase this year in the number of AIDS patients,” after a countrywide testing campaign identified 100,000 addition HIV-positive people. “The number of HIV/AIDS patients increased yet money provided by donors to buy the drugs did not increase,” said Akol.

The article includes comments by Stephen Watiti of Uganda’s National Forum of People Living with HIV-AIDS Network, who “said his group has also received reports about the 17 HIV patients dying in northern Uganda and is investigating whether patients in other areas of the country are affected.” Watiti commented that some government health centers has stopped providing antiretrovirals to HIV-positive patients and that treatment interruption “could expose Uganda to ‘an explosion of a new HIV epidemic that is predominantly drug resistant’” (Olukya, 7/27).