Uganda's health services are non-discriminatory, says health ministry

The State Minister for Primary Healthcare, Ms Margaret Muhanga (centre) with other officials at the commissioning of  a cold room at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital on January 5, 2023. PHOTO/ALEX ASHABA

The Ministry of Health has pledged its commitment to provide required health services to all citizens in their diversity without any form of discrimination.

In the Tuesday statement to all health workers and healthcare providers, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director for General Health Services at the ministry, emphasised that access to health services is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of Uganda, therefore, blocking anyone from receiving health services is against the supreme law of the land.

"The Ministry of Health is mandated to provide Preventive, Promotive, Curative and Rehabilitative health services to all people in Uganda in their diversity without any form of discrimination," Dr Mwebesa said.

He further warned all health workers or healthcare providers against denying services to any client and not to discriminate or stigmatise any individual who seeks healthcare for any reason regardless of gender, religion, tribe, economic, social status or sexual orientation.

"Patient rights and ethical values - confidentiality, privacy, and patient safety as stipulated in the Patient's charter should be upheld each time a patient seeks health care services at your facility,” he stated.

Dr Mwebesa also reiterated that the Anti-Homosexuality Act does not forbid any person from seeking medical services from a health facility or hospital.

"Furthermore, all services should be provided in a manner that ensures safety, privacy and confidentiality to all clients that seek health services in all public and private health facilities," he said.

The ministry's guidelines came on the same day when the World Bank issued a statement halting approval for new public finance projects in Uganda over the country's enactment of the law that criminalises homosexuality.

World Bank noted that: "Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group's values."

Adding that; "Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance."

However, World Bank noted that it was in discussion with Ugandan authorities over the issue.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 contains provisions making "aggravated homosexuality" a capital offense and imposes penalties for consensual same-sex relations of up to life in prison.