Uganda’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and achieve zero infections by 2030 are under threat as funding hangs in the balance. The signing of the Anti-gay Bill into law by President Museveni has led to international concerns and potential financial consequences. The World Bank has suspended the possibility of future loan extensions due to the law, and the US government is yet to confirm the renewal of HIV/AIDS funding through the US President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The expiration of the Uganda Country Operation Plan 2022 is just a month away, and the US government’s silence on PEPFAR funding renewal is attributed to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The US Embassy, through spokesperson Ms. Dorothy Nanyonga, has referred to a previous interview with Ms. Ellen Masi, the embassy’s public affairs officer. Ms. Masi mentioned that the law’s enactment could hinder equitable healthcare provision to all Ugandans.
The postponement of the COP23 presentation by PEPFAR doesn’t halt the core services and support provided in Uganda. The delay is to allow time for assessing the legal and programmatic implications of the evolving legislation and its broader impact on PEPFAR-backed HIV/AIDS programs.
President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-gay Bill has also prompted the World Bank to suspend potential loan extensions to Uganda. The law introduces severe penalties for homosexuality, including the possibility of the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality.
Mr. Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Health Ministry spokesperson, remains hopeful about possible communications from the US government. He emphasizes that there’s no need for speculation and that updates could arrive at any time.
Some parliamentarians express concerns about misuses of PEPFAR funds by certain health facilities and NGOs. They allege that these organizations, while claiming to provide HIV/AIDS treatment, engage in activities such as abortions and post-abortion services. Some MPs believe that these entities are exploiting the funds to promote agendas beyond their intended purpose.
Parliamentarians like Ms. Sarah Acheing Opendi and Ms. Rita Atukwasa suggest that funding should be directed through the Health Ministry to prevent any misuse. Ms. Opendi raises concerns about NGOs introducing LGBTQI agendas under the guise of sexual reproductive health services.
Mr. Jackson Checkweko, executive director of Reproductive Health Uganda, worries about the fate of 1.3 million people relying on life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs if funding is withdrawn. He questions whether these individuals could afford to buy necessary medication without government support.
Similar concerns have been voiced by members of the US Republican Party. Former President Donald Trump’s Global Gag Rule affected global health funding for non-US NGOs that provided abortion services or advocated for abortion-related matters. The policy’s impact on sexual reproductive health providers in Uganda persisted until the Biden-Harris administration revoked it, citing women’s sexual reproductive health rights as a priority.