Just a week before Uganda’s Parliament could start debating new changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the US Government, through its Embassy in Kampala, has revealed a plan to stop funding HIV/AIDS prevention programs, including ARVs and prevention measures.
President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni declined to sign the recently passed anti-gay bill over some clauses that were deemed to be inconsistent with the country’s constitution, and had higher chances of being trashed in the Constitutional Court.
Now, the PEPFAR Coordination office, which is responsible for all HIV/AIDS related activities, has called off a meeting to discuss the Uganda Country Operational Plan 2023 (COP23) strategy presentation over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. COP23 is key for US government’s HIV/AIDS related activities in the country.
In a notice the Embassy of the United States of America in Kampala issued to the PEPFAR Uganda COP23 Delegation, Mary Borgman, the Uganda PEPFAR Country Coordinator, delivered Ambassador John Nkengasong’s directive on the matter.
“On behalf of Ambassador Nkengasong, we are sharing the message below regarding the postponement of the PEPFAR Uganda Country Operational Plan 2023 (COP23) strategy presentation originally scheduled for April 28, 2023. We appreciate your essential partnership throughout the COP23 development process and will continue to work with you as we navigate the next steps,” wrote Borgman.
“Dear PEPFAR Uganda Family, I want to thank you all for your diligent efforts during the past several weeks for developing the Uganda COP23 plans in a highly complex and shifting landscape. In light of the recent developments with the potential signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) and how that could impact our ability to provide services and assistance, I have made the decision to postpone the Final COP Presentation meeting previously scheduled for April 28.”
Nkengasong was confident that “this postponement will allow us more time to collectively and effectively assess the legal and programmatic implications of the evolving legislation and broader environment in Uganda, which impacts PEPFAR-supported HIV/AIDS programs, and make relevant adjustments in order to resolve COP23 plans as appropriate.”
Describing the weeks of the debate on homosexuality in Uganda as a “difficult period,” Nkengasong further noted that “with regards to current programming, we will continue to assess the needs of PEPFAR Uganda and adapt programs as required to ensure the safety of our Staff and beneficiaries and help ensure access to health services remains intact.”
For years, PEPFAR has been giving life-sustaining ARV drugs to Ugandans living with HIV for free. There is now fear that if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is signed into law, the US could stop the support, meaning that citizens living with HIV may not get free ARVs anymore. This means that they will have to buy the drugs themselves. In the impoverished East African country, most people may not afford the cost. Uganda will also lose about $5bn every year in direct budget support, jobs and other components.
You can read more on how the US government is likely to make Ugandans cry if Museveni signs Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law HERE.
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