A recent study on HIV transmission and suppression in Uganda has underscored the urgency of bridging gender gaps in treatment to curb infection rates. The 15-year-long research was spearheaded by Imperial College London and the Rakai Health Sciences Program. The study analyzed data spanning from 2003 to 2018, and its findings were published in Nature Microbiology.
US PEPFAR's Role in Reducing HIV Infections
The US President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made significant strides in reducing new HIV infections among young women and heterosexual men. Yet, the reductions were less impactful in women aged 25 and above due to disparities in viral suppression between genders.
Viral Suppression: A Gendered Issue
Women are more likely to achieve viral suppression through HIV treatment, which in turn reduces transmission to male partners. On the other hand, men have lower rates of viral suppression. This contributes to men making up 63% of all transmissions, despite fewer men living with HIV than women.
Factors Contributing to the Disparity
Work-related travel, clinic accessibility, and social stigma are among the factors that may contribute to this disparity. The study suggests that bringing male virus suppression levels up to par with those of women could have prevented approximately half of the new infections between 2016 and 2018.
Strategies to enhance HIV treatment coverage, particularly among men, could help bridge gender disparities in HIV acquisition. This approach is crucial for controlling and eventually eradicating HIV transmission.