Aids cash to Uganda hangs in the balance

A doctor takes a blood sample from a patient. Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni on May 26  signed the Anti-gay Bill into law prompting the World Bank announcement to suspend future loan extension to Uganda.

Uganda is on the brink of losing Shs1.4 trillion meant for HIV/Aids treatment, a development that might trigger setback in attaining zero infections by 2030.

With just a month remaining until the Uganda Country Operation Plan 2022 expires, the US government is still tight-lipped on renewing the HIV/Aids funding under the US President Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, (PEPFAR), following the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

Ms Dorothy Nanyonga, the strategic communications specialist of US Embassy, when contacted last Tuesday, referred this publication to the previous interview with Ms Ellen Masi, the US embassy public affairs officer. Ms Masi said they were reviewing the possibility that should the then anti-gay Bill be signed into law, there was a high possibility of preventing provision of health care to all Ugandans equally.       

“The postponement of the COP23 presentation does not effectively “freeze” the essential services and support provided through PEPFAR across Uganda. The postponement of the Final COP23 Presentation will allow PEPFAR more time to collectively and effectively assess the legal and programmatic implications of the evolving legislation and broader environment in Uganda, which impacts PEPFAR-supported HIV/Aids programmes, and make relevant adjustments in order to resolve COP23 plans as appropriate,” read in part the email by the US embassy to this publication on April 26.

President Museveni on May 26  signed the Anti-gay Bill into law prompting the World Bank announcement to suspend future loan extension to Uganda.  The law prescribes tough penalties for those found liable of homosexuality, with aggravated homosexuality attracting a death penalty.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the spokesperson of the Health ministry, yesterday said: “We still have time, there is no need to speculate, any communication can come in anytime from now.”

Relatedly, a section of parliamentarians who this publication spoke to, raised concerns that PEPFAR was being misused by some health facilities and non-governmental organisations disguising as providers of HIV/Aids treatment but later offering illegal services such as abortions and post-abortions.

What some parliamentarians say

Some MPs accuse some NGOs of registering different activities with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau but instead promoting homosexuality.

“They are using NGOs to reach down to the grassroots promoting health, but at the end of it they are doing something else,” Ms Sarah Acheing Opendi, the Woman representative of Tororo District, is quoted as saying in her Hansard dated January, 25.

In a follow-up interview on August 17, with Ms Opendi, Ms Opendi reiterated that they are not demanding a discontinuance of funding, but rather guiding that all money be directed through the Health ministry and it should be mandated to accredit all the NGOs providing HIV treatment.

“The challenge we are realising is that some NGOs are funding health facilities to sneak LGBTQI agenda into the sexual reproductive health services,” she said.

Ms Rita Atukwasa, the Woman MP for Mbarara City, said if there are isolated cases where some NGOs are misusing the HIV funds, then there shouldn’t be a blanket ban on the funding as a response.

“I have worked with various sexual reproductive health facilities before but realised no illegal services were offered. The government should prioritise the lives of those living with HIV who are benefiting from the fund,” she said.

Mr Jackson Checkweko, the Reproductive Health Uganda executive director, raised concerns about how people living with HIV/Aids would survive without the life-saving drugs if the funds are withdrawn.

“Have you imagined what would befall 1.3 million people living with HIV who are benefiting from the fund... if the government ran out of ARVS? Would they afford to buy ARVS from the shops?” Mr Checkweko said in a telephone interview last week.


The concerns of the Ugandan Parliamentarians are not different from those of the members of the US Republican party.

Former Republican President Donald Trump instated the Global Gang rule which prohibited US global health funding for non-US NGOs that provide abortion services, abortion information, or advocate for abortion liberalization.

Between May 2017 to January 2021, the Trump-Pence administration invoked the ‘‘global gang rule’’ which affected activities of numerous sexual reproductive health service providers in Uganda.

However, when the Biden-Harris government was ushered into power, it rescinded the policy which it branded as an attack on women’s sexual reproductive health rights.