Uganda: IDPs living with HIV and AIDS face difficulties in accessing care and support

A comprehensive IOM mapping of HIV and AIDS service availability for internally displaced people (IDPs) in seven districts in northern Uganda has revealed that people are facing significant difficulties in accessing assistance such as counseling, treatment and support.

Care and support for orphans and other vulnerable children as well as people living with HIV and AIDS was highlighted as a significant problem for authorities and organizations providing assistance on the ground due to the overwhelming numbers of people needing help and limited resources and capacity to respond to the needs.

The mapping was carried out in the districts of Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Oyam and Apac, the main areas affected by years of conflict between the Ugandan authorities and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), where an estimated 1.4 million IDPs still live in camps.

IDP leaders also stressed the lack of information on which HIV and AIDS services were available and where to go, while other results from the mapping exercise included evidence of gaps in referral systems and an inequitable geographical distribution of services to the IDP communities.

Uganda has been seen as a success story in terms of fighting the disease with a significant decrease in prevalence rates during the 1990s which stabilized from 2000. However, it now seems the burden of the AIDS epidemic has grown, according to UNAIDS which also states there are an estimated one million people living with HIV and another one million children orphaned by AIDS in the country. The HIV prevalence rate in the north central region of Uganda is amongst the highest in the country, with particular concerns over potential increasing infections due to the heightened vulnerability of IDPs, particularly amongst women and girls.

"If a difference is to be made in assisting vulnerable populations affected by HIV and AIDS, there is undoubtedly a need for more resources to be made available and for programmes aimed at giving better access to services among the IDP population," said Angela St. Jules, IOM project officer in Kampala. "There needs to be better coordination and information flow among all those involved in providing these services to improve systematic referral and access to HIV and AIDS services amongst the IDP populations."

IOM is working closely with the government of Uganda district authorities to support the improvement of HIV and AIDS coordination at the district level. As part of the mapping exercise, IOM provided technical support in data management, as well as improved capacity to manage information which included the provision of computers and office furniture.

The mapping, carried out at the request of the UN Technical Working Group on HIV and AIDS and the National Committee on AIDS in Emergency Settings (NACAES) under the leadership of the Ugandan AIDS Commission (UAC), is part of a joint UN programme on health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID).

For further information, please contact: Angela St. Jules, IOM Kampala, tel: +254204444174, Email: