Kampala. A row has erupted between political leadership of the Ministry of Health and technocrats over the purchase of sex lubricants worth about Shs3b for homosexuals.
The lid on the new purchase was opened during the ministry’s quarterly review meeting on Friday that turned rowdy after Dr Patrick Tusiime, the head of National Disease Control Programme, presented an expenditure on procurement of 964,000 sex lubricants using funds provided by the Global Funds.
The Global Fund is an international financing organisation that aims to attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. The organisation has its secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the world’s largest financier of anti-Aids, TB and malaria programmes. As of July 2016, the organisation had disbursed $30 billion to needy countries, including Uganda.
According to a source who attended the meeting, Ms Sarah Opendi, the State minister of Health in charge of General Duties, quickly questioned the purchase of the lubricants for the sexual minorities, indicating that homosexuality remains illegal under the Penal Code Act.
In an interview with Sunday Monitor, Ms Opendi confirmed the purchase of the lubricants and made it clear that the political leadership at the ministry did not approve the purchase of the lubricants.
“We are very surprised by the progromme manager of the Aids Control Programme. We are reviewing our previous quarter work plan and during his presentation, he talked about procurement of 964,000 lubricants,” Ms Opendi said.
“We have never approved any such lubricants or any such commodities to be brought into this country. Homosexuality remains an illegally activity, according to our laws and, therefore, as Ministry of Health, we cannot be seen doing the opposite….the Global Fund money is supposed to help in the fight against malaria and other diseases not buying lubricants for homosexuals,” Ms Opendi said.
According to a source, each tube was bought at $0.8 (about Shs2,800), which translates to about Shs3 billion for the 964,000 tubes purchased. It’s not yet clear which type of tubes ministry officials imported into the country and from where. It’s also not clear how the disputed tubes were brought into the country without the knowledge of the political leadership.
The lubricants are used during sexual intercourse or such activities to reduce friction.
The source also indicated that Ms Specioza Kazibwe, who is an advisor to the Health ministry, also opposed the purchase of the lubricants. However, the former vice president declined to comment on the matter, saying she just advises the ministry.
When contacted about the purchased lubricates, , Dr Joshua Musinguzi, who heads the Aids Control Programme at the ministry of Health, promised to get back to Sunday Monitor, but by press time, he had not done so.
However, Prof Anthony Mbonye, the acting director general Health Services, disagreed with the minister, saying a lot of gay people go to health facilities in search of treatment for wounds caused by “friction”.
Mr Kikonyongo Kivumbi, who represents key affected populations on the Country Coordinating Mechanism, the agency that oversees the implementation of Global Fund, told this newspaper that the minister is misinformed on the use of the lubricants.
“The lubricants are part of the Global Fund grant and it’s not only the homosexuals who need the lubricant but also discordant couples and other normal people,” Mr Kivumbi said.
The minister of Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo, was surprised when contacted about the matter.
“What! This is unacceptable and incredible. We strongly denounce homosexuality as it is unacceptable and against our cultural values and conscience,” he said.