UN Global Fund cuts $270M in aid to Uganda, blames homophobic policies

The Global Fund has denied Uganda $270m (about Sh700b) needed to put over 100,000 more people on lifesaving ARVs because the country’s policies are deemed harsh on sexual minorities according to a New Vision report.

The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to dramatically increase resources to fight three of the world’s most devastating diseases, and to direct those resources to areas of greatest need.

The Uganda government’s New Vision newspaper reported today that the Aids control manager in the Ministry of Health, Dr Zainab Akol, had said the rights of minorities were derailing the fight against HIV/Aids.

Akol is quoted saying, “By the time we are through with one group’s rights, we have 130,000 new infections.”

She added, “It is as if the global agenda is to use HIV to propagate sexual minority groups. Let them use the proper channels to deal with such issues.”

Currently, Uganda has 700,000 people who need ARVs, but only 300,000 are on the life-saving drugs.

Dr Akol said in an interview, “We had asked for $270m for Round 10 of the Global Fund. We could have used part of it to put 100,000 people on ARVs.” Uganda receives Global Fund monies in tranches or rounds.

On Thursday October 10, 2011, gay rights activists from Uhspa pleaded with the Global Fund Country Coordinating mechanism, a committee that overlooks the use of global funds grants to mainstream the rights of homosexuals in global fund activities.

Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the Uhspa Uganda Executive Director told the meeting convened at Kati Kati restaurant that homosexuals are excluded from public health policies in Uganda, whereas they have the right to health.

The Global Fund is contributed to by governments, private sector and non-governmental donors. Governments’ contribution accounts for 95 per cent of the Global Fund’s money, which is used to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Ms Beyonce Tushabe, another activist from Uhspa Uganda told the same meeting preparing which ideas go into the global fund country proposal that she feared LGBTI needs for health would be edited out by the country coordinating committee.

Homosexuals have recently put up a spirited demand for the rights to health. Uhspa Uganda working with Aids Span has trained activists on monitoring the Global Fund’s resources.

Although Uhspa Uganda participated in the election of the country coordinating mechanism representative for civil society, there is little consultation with minority activists.

But Dr Raymond Byaruhanga, the Board Chairman of the Uganda Network of Aids Service Organisations, which is collecting proposal ideas from Civil Society Organisations for inclusion in the country proposal to the Global Fund, said all efforts would be made to put gay rights and activities in the proposal.

Meanwhile the New Vision reported that Akol said the Global Fund would still give Uganda $130m (about sh330b) from Round Seven, which would also be used to buy ARVs and test kits.

By Kikonyogo Kivumbi

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