It has become clear that the AIDS Trust Fund may never become implemented inspire of government assures that they are working on it.
HIV/AIDS activists in the Kigezi sub-region are questioning why the government has failed to expedite its implementation.
Parliament enacted the HIV Prevention and Control Act in 2014.
The law was operationalized in 2018 enabling the government to levy 2 percent of total annual tax levies on alcohol and soft drinks to generate UGX 9.149 billion Shillings to be channeled to the Trust Fund.
However, since then, the operationalization has never been implemented to date.
Florence Tumuheirwe, the Executive Director of Kigezi Women in Development (KWID) a community-based organization based in Kigezi advocating for HIV prevention and human rights said that when external funds were still available, it was easy for KWID to mobilize HIV patients and sensitize them on how to stay healthy as well as linking them with health service providers.
Tumuheirwe says that the Trust Fund should be activated as quickly as possible because the lack of funding to civil society organizations has crippled all the efforts to implement their goals.
Eunice Kabagambe, a counselor at Kambuga Hospital and the coordinator of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kanungu district says that the failure of the HIV Trust fund to be operationalized has seriously crippled their activities like transport facilitation while checking on their patients.
Kabagambe explained that under the National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), they last received funding from the Embassy of Ireland and Global Fund.
Silas Cherotich, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Uganda Network of Aids Service Organizations (UNASO) says that until the Trust Fund is implemented, the government’s initiative on ending HIV and AIDS in Uganda by 2030 will not be achieved.
Oren Aryeija, the Kabale District HIV focal person says that despite the low donor funding, government health facilities will continue providing services effectively. According to Aryeija, out of 23,956 people who tested for HIV in health center III and IVs in Kabale district in the last quarter, 275 tested positive.
Most Civil Society organisations have been relying on US PEPFAR funding, which was started in 2003 and has been re-authorized by Congress three times — in 2008, 2013, and in December 2018 — with funding totaling more than $90 billion.
About 20 years after PEPFAR’s funding model is changing. In July 2018, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator Deborah Birx issued a directive for all US agencies to deliver 40 percent of their PEPFAR funding to indigenous organizations in the next 18 months and to reach 70 percent in the next 30 months.
Funding is also expected to plateau as US officials envisage a transition to sustainability in countries like Uganda. Although these changes are in many ways a testament to how far Uganda and much of the rest of Africa have come in fighting the AIDS epidemic, there are troubling signs of a return to pre- epidemic attitudes and lifestyles.1
And although officials still express confidence that Uganda is on the path to eventually ending HIV as a public health problem, some activists wonder if the U.S. and other international donors are withdrawing from the field too early, before the two-decade long war has been decisively won.
Hope Murungi, the head of the Private Sector department at Uganda AIDS Commission admits that the government is aware of the delay to activate the HIV Trust Fund. Murungi says that donors withdrew funding in order to focus on other international priorities like Climate Change and Covid-19.
Murungi assured that discussions are still ongoing between relevant ministries to have the HIV/AIDS trust fund operationalized.
Uganda has about 1.4 million people living with HIV in Uganda, according to the latest statistics from Uganda AIDS Commission. Out of the total 1.2 million are on drugs.