Uganda shows strong gains in war on AIDS

Uganda has shown remarkable progress against HIV, the AIDS virus, according to an analysis of health data. Since the early 1990s, HIV cases in Uganda have dropped by more than two-thirds, a decline not seen in neighboring countries. For example, the HIV-infection rate among Ugandan men drafted into the military fell from nearly 19 percent in 1991 to 4 percent in 2002.

Condom use in Uganda increased somewhat during the 1990s, but not faster than it did in nearby countries. Uganda’s gains in the fight against AIDS are more likely due to an initiative started in the 1980s by public health officials, who sounded a clear warning about HIV that alerted people to the risks of casual sex, researchers say in the April 30 Science. The message reached the community level through local networks of chiefs, churches, and even musicians, says epidemiologist Daniel Low-Beer of the University of Cambridge in England, a coauthor of the study.

The resulting change in people’s sexual behaviors in Uganda is now evident.

Between 1989 and 1995, Uganda experienced a three-fifths decline in people reporting casual sexual partnerships. Also, the proportion of unmarried women who reported having sex dropped from 53 percent to 16 percent.