15 May 2008

Uganda: Spend GF Money On ARV Drugs


Uganda has yet again received a huge financial boost towards her fight against HIV/Aids that has so far ravaged the country for the last two and a half decades or so.

The additional Shs647b from the Global Fund comes in at a particularly good time with government still sitting on an investigation report on the mismanagement of the previous batch of funds from the same institution.

Sad as it may be, the two-decade scourge has come in many respects as a blessing to many in and outside of government as it has seen several billions of shillings poured into this country by donors.

It is sad that while the billions continue to pour into the country to fight HIV, out of the estimated 250,000 people who are in dire need of ARV treatment, only 80,000 are able to access the drugs. This means that about 170, 000 people suffering from HIV/Aids are still lying out there without access to new life saving or life prolonging drugs due to lack of money.

The children orphaned or forced onto the streets by parents who are too sick to provide for them bear testimony of how much we still need to do about the HIV/Aids scourge.

That two decades into the fight against the scourge we are still talking about more or less the same challenges in the fight against HIV/Aids is in itself telling. The time to shift the gear is now.

It is time for government to up its efforts. Only a miserly number of those qualified to get ARVs are actually receiving them today. Government cannot afford to continue singing the song of success through "sensitisation" and "creating awareness" for ever. The ante must be raised to providing better care and treatment for people with HIV rather than focus so much on sensitisation.

Most of the previous disbursements of the Global Fund money was discovered to have been spent on HIV/Aids sensitisation seminars. Even without the corruption that swallowed up a big chunk of the money, this "seminar" strategy still would not have helped much.

Uganda is leading in HIV/Aids awareness in Africa and probably in the world. After about 15 years of an aggressive national anti-HIV sensitisation campaign, awareness about the scourge cannot still be our critical concern today.

We should instead now focus on provision of more ARV drugs and treatment to the people living with HIV. Sensitisation should just be secondary/supplementary. Let's put this latest release of funds to meaningful use to save our people.

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