Some HIV-positive people in Uganda’s Masindi District are turning down health kits containing antiretroviral treatment, condoms and other materials related to HIV/AIDS because of the stigma associated with the virus, said an official at one of the country’s leading AIDS service organizations.

Dr. Francis Nyakoojo of The AIDS Support Organization [TASO] said that clients were refusing the free treatment and services for fear of being stigmatized by others in the community.

“Patients fear that if they associate themselves with TASO and are given kits, other people would know their status. So they end up not coming for treatment, yet they need the services,” Dr. Nyakoojo said Sunday at the organization’s 3rd annual general meeting.

He also said that this meant that many people end up seeking treatment only after their health has deteriorated to the point of being unmanageable.

The HIV prevalence rate in Masindi, in western Uganda, is 8 percent, which is higher than that of the overall country’s rate, which is about 6.7 percent.