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Health activists petition parliament over delayed operationalization of AIDS Trust Fund

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health activists have expressed displeasure with the government’s delay to operationalize the National AIDS Trust Fund.

Parliament enacted the HIV Prevention and Control Act in 2014, and the law was operationalized in 2018 enabling the government to levy 2 percent of total annual tax levies on alcohol and soft drinks to generate 9.149 billion Shillings to be channeled to the Trust Fund.

Presenting a paper by the National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks Uganda-NAFOPHANU to the Parliament’s Committee on HIV/AIDS and related cases on Tuesday, Nelson Musoba, the Director-General of Uganda AIDS Commission noted that five years have now elapsed since the enactment, and the Trust Fund has not commenced operations amid the waning donor aid.

The Chairperson of Global Fund Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism Dr Andrew Musoke, reveals that Uganda has benefitted from 2.927 trillion Shillings of the Fund but cautioned that the country needs to focus on domestic funding amid increased political turmoil around the globe.

Christ Mubiru, the Team Leader of the Uganda Young Positives pointed out that HIV remains predominantly funded by donors, and that government contributes only 150 billion Shillings leaving the biggest burden of sustaining 1.4 million affected citizens largely to donors.

The petitioners told MPs that although Uganda took a bold step through the Presidential Fast Track Initiative-PFI, and launched an initiative to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, there remain highly significant gaps.

They cited the persistence of stigma and discrimination, inadequate domestic financing for health, delays to operationalize the National Trust Fund, and inadequate management of Non-Communicable Diseases-NCD triggered by long-term use of Anti-Retroviral Treatment-ART among others.

Sarah Kayagi Netalisire, the District Woman Representative of Namisindwa, who doubles as the Committee Chairperson pledged to table the concern on the floor of Parliament. She acknowledged that most of the finances the country receives from donors are focused on the management and treatment of the people living with HIV, yet sensitization and public awareness remain underfunded.

The government currently contributes 12 percent of funding towards HIV programs leaving the rest to individuals who shoulder up to 42 percent of the expenditure; donors and the private sector.

Uganda has made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with over 1.4 people living with the virus and 1.2 million on treatment. UNAIDS estimates put HIV prevalence at 6.8 percent out of which 7.1 percent among women and 4.3 for men.

The Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Survey (UPHIA) report 2021 estimates also indicate that 53,000 people were newly infected with HIV; 5,700 children aged under the age of 14 years and 48,000 adults aged 15 and above.