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Heart Disease Tops HIV Deaths in East Africa

Taddeo Bwambale and John Agaba

East Africa is experiencing a rapid rise in cardiovascular disease which has turned out to be a major cause of deaths among HIV patients in the region.

Health experts at the 5th annual East African Health and Scientific Conference in Kampala warned that cases of cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease are on the rise in the region.

The four diseases classified as Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for 60% (35 million) of global deaths, According to the World Health Organisation.

Prof. Gerald Yonga, the director of the NCD Research Policy Unit at Aga Khan University and head of the NCD Alliance of Kenya said the rising cases were linked to four risk factors.

They include smoking, unhealthy diet (high in salt, sugar and fat but low in vegetables and fruits), inadequate physical activity and excessive alcohol consumption.

Presenting a paper on the burden of non-communicable diseases, Prof Yonga said research had shown that heart diseases were the leading cause of deaths among people with HIV.

“Certain drugs for HIV can lead someone to get heart disease, so it is important that one gets reviewed by a doctor whenever such changes are notice,” Prof Yonga said.

In Uganda, HIV-related deaths dropped from 120,000 in 1998 to 63,000 by the end of 2014, according to statistics from the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC).

At least 1.6m people are living with HIV and over 700,000 are enrolled on antiretroviral treatment (ART), according to latest figures from the ministry of health.

Health experts from the five EAC member states are meeting in Kampala to explore ways through which they can address emerging health challenges facing the region.

Scientists from Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania will share experience on disease prevention, control and management.The conference will also discuss the challenges and innovations in improving access to safe and quality medicine and the ‘one health model of service.

By Taddeo Bwambale and John Agaba
Copyright © NewVision

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