UGANDA: MPs pressure government for more AIDS funding

Photo: Nic McPhee/Flickr
KAMPALA, 29 September 2009 (PlusNews) - The Ugandan parliament’s house committee on HIV/AIDS and related matters has appealed to the government to increase its funding for HIV, especially as infection rates remain high and the country continues to experience frequent shortages of anti-retroviral medicines.

“As a committee we are advocating for the government to increase its funding on HIV/AIDS activities in the country to at least 15 percent [of the national budget],” said Beatrice Rwakimari, chair of the committee.

Uganda’s most recent budget allocated about US$30 million to the purchase of anti-retrovirals and anti-malaria medication, and gave the Uganda AIDS Commission about $3 million to fight HIV, while $500,000 was earmarked for prevention programmes.

The total allocation to HIV programmes – which makes up 6 percent of the national budget – marks an increase on previous years, but the MPs say it is still not nearly enough to roll back the effects of the pandemic.

“This funding is too little, as we continue to get new infections every year,” Rwakimari said. Uganda’s HIV prevalence has risen marginally from a low of 6 percent in 2000 to 6.4 percent, according to the government.

Dependence on donors

Chris Baryomunsi, also a member of the House HIV committee, told IRIN/PlusNews that Uganda could not continue to rely on donor funding to sustain its HIV programmes.

According to the Ministry of Health, more than 80 percent of the country’s HIV funding is from foreign sources; the two leading donors are the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

''What will happen if donors suddenly withdraw their help?''
“We appreciate funding from donors, but as a country we can’t continue relying on them; we must invest on our own for purposes of ownership and sustainability,” he said. “We want to see continuous progressive increments in government spending on HIV each year until we reach about 30 percent.

“When a person is put on ARVs, he or she is supposed to be on them for the rest of their lives,” he added. “What will happen to them if donors suddenly withdraw their help?”

ARV provision, prevention campaigns, condom distribution, testing and research, are among the activities the MPs feel require additional government funding.

The MPs have also stressed the need to spend earmarked funds as intended - the government’s $30 million 2008/09 budgetary allocation for the purchase of anti-retroviral drugs was largely diverted to pay for, among other things, health worker salaries and shares in a local ARV manufacturing plant.

Health Minister Stephen Mallinga said although the legislators’ appeal made sense, the government simply did not have the money to spend on HIV.

“It’s true we need more money for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, etc, in the country, but where is the money? The government doesn’t have funds,” Mallinga told IRIN/PlusNews. “Funding for the Ministry of Health is too low.”


Theme (s): Aid Policy, Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Governance, Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews, PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC