A group of civil society organizations told the media last week that there were stock-outs of free HIV/Aids drugs in health facilities countrywide.
They warned that hundreds of thousands of Ugandans could develop resistance to first-line anti-retroviral therapy if nothing is done about the nationwide diminished stocks.
More saddening is the fact that instead of stocking up, the ministry of Health reportedly instructed district officials to cut supplies of drug refills to two weeks per individual – instead of three to six months.
This is not the first or last stock-out scenario in this country. Civil society organizations said recurrent stock-outs of HIV medicines and other essential commodities have persisted since June 2017.
Saddening as this news was, the dire consequences are more shocking – and these include: HIV-positive people on treatment developing resistance to drugs and dying ultimately and Uganda failing to meet its treatment-for-all policy and the global 90-90-90 targets.
Even in the face of such a grim picture, history suggests that government has always been reluctant to swiftly respond to stock-outs, preferring to lean largely on the donor community to step in.
CSOs have suggested: “The HIV funding situation is even more precarious with approximately 93 per cent of the financing for the HIV response coming from donors or non-state actors with PEPFAR taking 62 per cent; the Global Fund 28 per cent and other sources three per cent, leaving government contribution at a paltry seven per cent.”
The time is now for the ruling NRM government to reexamine its spending choices. In the last one month alone, the NRM government has spent about Shs 13bn to facilitate MPs to consult on the hugely controversial age-limit bill and the 29 ruling CEC members asked for and were each given a monthly allowance of Shs 10 million and promised brand new cars.
What is the urgency of this government expenditure compared to teachers and medical workers and an HIV-ravaged population, who are clamouring for a pay raise and medicines respectively?
It is high time we ended dependency on international aid to fight HIV. Let’s operationalise the HIV/Aids Fund and take charge of our destiny.