AHF opened the first Uganda Cares clinic in Masaka in February 2002 through a partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, offering the first ever opportunity for antiretroviral treatment (ART) outside of the capital city of Kampala. Uganda Cares is now one of the country’s largest providers of free HIV/AIDS treatment and care, and the program’s model was identified by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS as a best practice model for ART in 2003. Thanks to intensive support and follow-up by community-based organizations, 98% of AHF Uganda Cares patients adhere to their treatment regimens. Over time, service delivery was scaled up to now cover 15 districts, including Rakai where the first incidence of HIV was diagnosed in 1980.
AHF Uganda Cares provides a multitude of services, including free antiretroviral therapy for more than 45,000 people countrywide and regular HIV testing events where the use of rapid HIV testing and group counseling sessions allow the team to identify thousands of people living with HIV at a time and link them into care. Free condom distribution and safer sex promotions through outreach and media campaigns is an ongoing prevention effort for AHF Uganda Cares, and each of its 30 sites offers HIV testing. In addition to supporting the infrastructure that creates these sites, AHF Uganda Cares also supports clients living with HIV through socio-economic empowerment support programs, all free of charge. Additionally, AHF Uganda Cares engages in advocacy activities including the right to treatment access and the use of condoms as an effective prevention approach.
Since the 1990s, Uganda has been struggling with HIV and AIDS. At the peak of the epidemic, 18.5% % of people in Uganda were living with HIV. The government’s policies and leadership have helped bring adult HIV prevalence down over time, to 6.4% in 2006. However, due to complacency, HIV prevalence has increased to a national average of 7.3%, according to a 2012 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey report. It is also noted in the report that only about 59% of all HIV positive people in need of antiretroviral treatment are receiving it. Success in the fight against AIDS remains in jeopardy as long as ART isn’t accessible to everyone who requires it, and according to the Uganda AIDS Commission that number stands at 599,000 people out of 1.2 million Ugandans living with HIV.