UNDP cautions Museveni against HIV/AIDS budget cuts

President Museveni taking a public HIV/AIDs test being administered by his personal doctor and now Health Ministery Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine.
President Museveni taking a public HIV/AIDs test being administered by his personal doctor and now Health Ministery Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine. State House Photo.

President Yoweri Museveni, a world-renowned fighter against AIDS in the eighties has been asked to again provide leadership fight against HIV/AIDs.

Museveni broke the silence against HIV/AIDS in the early days of his Government when his peers then had kept quiet.

President Museveni spoke openly against HIV/AIDS in the 80s at a time when discussion of the epidemic was a taboo.

Now with declining funding to HIV/AIDS and low public awareness about the virus, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) resident Coordinator, Rosa Mulango thinks the President is still positioned to provide leadership in bringing down infection rates and possibly bringing end to AIDS.

Mulango while addressing a Press Conference at Protea Hotel in Kampala urged President Museveni to rekindle his earlier efforts to tell the world that HIV/AIDs is still a public health threat.

“Uganda’s HIV success story was driven by the direct leadership of His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who “rolled up his sleeves” and led national HIV campaigns on educating Ugandans about behavior change, the strategies for managing HIV and challenging stigma and discrimination” she said.

Malango’s calls comes at the when government is considering budget cuts across all the government Ministries in the coming financial year. She and other partners under UNAIDS joint program have advised government against proposed budget.

She noted that cutting health and education sector does not auger well given that the two are important in sectors in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Malango says investments in the well-being of Uganda must be increased to achieve the National Vision and Development objectives.

She says these efforts led to a phenomenal reduction in new HIV infections even in an era were funding was not as substantial and where anti-retroviral therapy was not widely available and many countries came to Uganda to learn and be inspired by Uganda’s experience.

The draft National Budget Framework Paper for fiscal year 2017/18 proposes an ambitious 10% budget increase, benefiting mainly infrastructure, such as roads in the Albertine oil region.

Funding for the security sector also increases, but budgets for health, education, social development and justice are cut.

The share of the budget dedicated to social sectors has declined from 37 per cent in 2002/03 to 19 per cent in the proposed Budget for 2017/18, and this in a context of a population growth which Uganda is struggling to sustain.

Mulango is the latest of Uganda’s development partners to critcise the government plans to cut budgets for health, education and social development sectors.

“Uganda has been and continues to be the recipient of generous international support in various areas. However, we also need the Government of Uganda to take on increasing responsibility for its HIV programme and to focus on how we can as a joint team support the drive to zero” she said.

Uganda's First Lady Janet Museveni taking a public HIV/AIDs test.
Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni taking a public HIV/AIDs test.

The European Union in Uganda recently noted that without government bridging the funding gap arising from the decline in external aid to the social sectors, the earlier results could be compromised.

The European Union noted that In health, earlier progress is either at risk, or almost entirely dependent on donor support, as in the fight against and management of HIV/AIDS.

Lennarth Hjelmaker, the Global Health Ambassador, Sweden, and co-chair of the Global Review Panel on the UNAIDS Joint Programme said there is a complacency around AIDS which should not be the case as the epidemic is still killing thousands.

He says Uganda has an important story to tell as it has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDs and has registered tremendous success.

According to Professor Vinand Nantulya, the Chairman Uganda Aids Commission, Uganda is committed to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and all is being done to realize this vision.

– Uganda Radio Network