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Aids activists rally behind Uganda Aids Commission

Dr Christine Ondoa, director general Uganda Aids Commission

People living with HIV/Aids have condemned the move by parliament to dissolve the Ugandan Aids Commission (UAC) and incorporate it in the Aids Control Programme (ACP) under the Ministry of Health.

The budget committee of Parliament recently made a recommendation that maintaining UAC under Office of the President duplicates activities already carried out by ACP.

The committee recommended the act that established UAC be amended to make it answerable to the ministry. Now UAC’s stakeholders under their umbrella organization, National Forum of People Living with HIV/Aids Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), maintain the move is wrong as the two entities are distinct and don’t overlap.

Stella Kentutsi, the executive director, NAFOPHANU, said UAC largely coordinates the behavioral and structural interventions, while ACP is focused on biomedical interventions targeting health workers and patients.

“The move would negatively impact [people living with HIV/Aids] and the population at large,” she said, wondering why the legislators did not consult them before reaching the recommendation.

Kentutsi said dissolving the UAC at this time would be a major strategic mistake.

“We reject the recommendation since it has potential to reverse the gains Uganda has started to make such as reduced HIV incidence, fewer Aids-related deaths, fewer infections and children born with HIV,” she said.

An emotionally charged long serving HIV activist Milly Katana, spoke on behalf of people with HIV, demanding that UAC remains as a standalone entity.

Katana said it is a recommended best practice to have the oversight role distinct and separated from the implementation/management roles for better transparency.

“This is why the Uganda model has been successfully replicated globally,” Katana said.

Lillian Mworeko, the executive director, International Community of Women Living with HIV, East Africa (IWCEA) said Parliament should not commit a “costly mistake and take us backwards 34 years”.

Mworeko said adherence, stigma cannot be handled by the health ministry and the ministry cannot bring other players and civil society together as UAC does.

“We deserve to have been consulted; we have 1.4m Ugandans living with HIV/Aids and with the help of civil society and UAC we have been able to drop HIV preference to 7.4,” she said.

Jane Mwirumubi, a board member at NAFOPHANU said the health ministry is already overwhelmed and any move to add to its burden will send previous gains into the gutters.

“The ministry cannot solve matters related to property inheritance, discordance, gender based violence; such family and social issues cannot be sorted in hospitals,” Mwirumubi said.


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