Thursday, December 1, 2011

Minus Global funds Uganda may at last raise own HIV funding

By Esther Nakkazi

Cancelation of the Global Fund funding may finally achieve what the Uganda government has for long failed to do -increase its funding for HIV activities.

Two weeks ago, (22nd November) the Global Fund Board cancelled Round 11 after some donors failed to honor their pledges so that funding amounted to only half of the anticipated $1.6 billion for this Round.

In a country were HIV activities are 90 percent donor funded and Round 11 was particularly meant to fund HIV activities, activists say this is a wake up call to Ugandans that they should pay for their HIV medicines. 

The Uganda Aids Commission says it has already prepared a position paper to start a levy on some items like beer, but Uganda has to start treating its people.

Dr. Lydia Mungherera an HIV activist says Uganda has been relying on donor funding for a long time, but now is the time for the government to start treating and investing in its own people.

“During the World Aids Day the message should be definite that our people are going to die. The donors are already sending a straight message which we ought to heed to,” said Dr. Mungherera.

“We have been warning our government, donors are unreliable and that they are jumping out is not new. Government should find the money or prepare to deal with a national disaster,” said Richard Hasunira an advocate for HIV prevention and health rights.

A statement released after the Global Fund Board meeting in Ghana two weeks ago said that with no money for Round 11, the next opportunity for countries to apply for new grants would be during the 2014-2016 period.

IT further said that countries would now apply for grants using a new funding model developed under a different strategy. The GF supports globally programs on malaria, TB and HIV as well as strengthening the national health systems through free grants.

Since the establishment of the Global Fund, Uganda has successfully applied for eight grants from the Global Fund For Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) all totaling US$ 426,763,257.

But in regards to HIV/Aids, Uganda has unsuccessfully submitted requests to the Global Fund several times including rounds 4,5,6,9 and most recently 10 where the country appealed against the TPR decision without success.

Before Round 11 was cancelled, Uganda was busy drafting its application, whose funds were exclusively for HIV. And, the Uganda Aids Commission says they are going ahead to write the proposal, mainly to give ‘clear numbers’ for the funding gap.

Prof Vinand Nantulya, the chairman of the Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) ScieGirl that they were suspecting that Round 11 would either be delayed or it would not take place.

However, in the meantime Uganda has the necessary resources to buffer interventions in the areas of malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and health systems strengthening for the next 3-4 years, said the Uganda Global Fund secretariat.

According to the CCM secretariat, Uganda has over $300 million to intervene in the four disease problem areas but activists and civil society insist it should come up with alternative funding other than donors funding HIV activities.

“I think we may need a supplementary budget but most importantly we need to come up with other funding sources. We cannot expect the donors to do everything for us. I mean Mugabe has done something,” said Dr. Mungherera.

In 1999, Zimbabwe introduced an AIDS levy consisting of a 3 percent tax deducted from salaries of formally employed workers and companies to compensate for the declining donor support.

“It is unfortunate that Round was cancelled but we have to try to mobilize domestic resources,” said Prof. Nantulya also the Chairman of Uganda Aids Commission (UAC). The plan for mobilization of domestic resources is already under way for Uganda. So far, a position paper on alternative avenues of domestic funding has been developed and is under scrutiny by the ministry of Finance.

“We may come up with a levy on items like beer, soda e.t.c. We have examined everything and given the options to the Ministry of Finance,” said Prof Nantulya.

The initiative to impose an AIDS levy on some items could be the only way out for funding Uganda’s HIV/AIDS activities amidst the declining donor support. But it is an initiative for the long term.
With a low tax base and a high burden on the taxpayers, the CCM requires mobilization, education and public support, the only means out of a tight rope.

“It is going to be a long, meticulous process and a public good. But we shall put in place what works,” said Prof. Nantulya. “We hope to explore every possible way to get treatment.”


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