25 April 2017

Uganda: Row Over Shs3b Lubricant for Sexual Minorities Deepens

Photo: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS
Lubricants (file photo).

Kampala — A row over procurement of controversial lubricants for sexual monitories has widened, with the Health minister, Ms Jane Aceng, placing the blame on Global Fund representatives for initiating the need to procure illegal items into a grant application.

Dr Aceng told Daily Monitor yesterday that the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), a body that oversees the implementation of the Global Fund cash, should explain the importation of the 964,000 lubricants for homosexuals into the country where homosexuality is prohibited.

"They are looking at reducing the spread of HIV by avoiding injury, but in the end, they will promote the act (homosexuality), which is not acceptable," Dr Aceng said.

"This was planned by the CCM, let them answer. The CCM is made up of Civil Society and others who represent those groups, so they must have advocated for them. These items enable them to have friction-free sex," Dr Aceng said, adding that homosexuality is illegal in Uganda.

However, Prof Vinand Nantulya, the CCM chairperson, yesterday told this newspaper that the ministers had misunderstood the use of the lubricants, saying they were purchased to be used in condoms, which are meant for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

"The ministry officials are part of CCM and they are represented by the director general. The partners at CCM decided to buy the lubricants for use in condoms," he added, explaining that all condoms are supposed to be lubricated but some come when they are not. Prof Nantulya further warned that statements made by State Minister in charge of General Duties Sarah Opendi, might cause Uganda to miss out on the newly applied for 2018/2020 grant, whose application has just been submitted.

In her response yesterday, Ms Opendi said he (Prof Nantulya) was entitled to his opinion being the chair of CCM.

She added that Dr Aceng, while still director general of Health Services, was a member of CCM and had advised that the lubricants should not be imported into the country.

However, a source at the CCM, who preferred anonymity, said the ring-fenced grant for sexual minorities was endorsed by the ministers.

"Even in the current grant application, $8 million (Shs28.6b) has been ring-fenced for those groups of people and its untouchable. They put it to whatever they want," the source intimated, adding it's always conditional for the country.

The lid to the purchase was opened during the ministry's quarterly review meeting last week after Dr Patrick Tusiime; the head of the National Disease Control Programme, presented an expenditure on the procurement of 964,000 sex lubricants using funds provided by the Global Fund.

Immediately, Ms Opendi questioned the purchase of lubricants for sexual minorities, indicating homosexuality remains illegal.

However, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said the political leadership at the Health ministry was also to blame for failing to detect the procurement.

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