U.S. to continue aid to Uganda health sector despite economic constraints

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USA ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier has said in a statement issued today that the dramatic growth in the delivery of health care services throughout Uganda in recent years is a remarkable accomplishment, one in which the United States, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), plays a key role.

He said that in the past year alone PEPFAR funded the HIV testing of over a million pregnant Ugandan women as a first step in preventing transmission of the virus to their newborns. As of March this year, over 218,000 Ugandans are receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, of which 184,000 are directly supported by the American people.

Lanier said, “The United States is currently investing $280 million a year in Uganda to fight HIV and AIDS. Since 2004, our investment totals $1.4 billion. This high level of funding is particularly significant today in a time of tightening budgets and economic constraints. I am proud of the support that the American people are providing to Uganda to help fight this disease, despite the worst economic conditions in the U.S. since World War II.”

According to him even with this enormous contribution from the U.S., the demand for HIV and AIDS services, especially ARVs, is rapidly outpacing the ability to deliver them to those who are in need. He added that the gap between supply and demand means many Ugandans are unable to get life-saving ARVs when they need them. The need for ARVs is immediate; and the solution to this crisis requires both short-term and long-term solutions.

To address Uganda’s short-term ARV needs, the American people will add new HIV funding above and beyond their current annual budget of $280 million. These new funds, invested over a two-year period, will increase enrollment of new patients on ARVs by at least 36,000 this year, with an additional 36,000 Ugandan patients next year. This means that by 2012, the American people plan to directly support more than 250,000 Ugandans on ARVs. “To be successful, this program also requires a greater partnership with – and engagement by – the Government of Uganda. The success of this effort will influence future funding decisions.”

“With these new funds, America will purchase an immediate shipment of ARVs (ARV Infusion) to the Uganda National Medical Stores and Joint Medical Stores for quick distribution to government and not-for-profit clinics and hospitals to bridge the gap until Global Fund drugs arrive.

“Addressing Uganda’s long-term HIV and AIDS needs requires a renewed commitment from the people of Uganda, the Government of Uganda, the Global Fund and other donors. The U.S. Government is not – and cannot – be the only source of funding for Uganda’s HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment efforts. U.S. aid programs never seek to lead another nation’s response, but to work with host governments to identify opportunities where U.S. support can make a needed contribution. This is an ongoing process.”

Besides Uganda, the U.S. is has also been addressing the long-term need for new donor streams by engaging the Global Fund to better support the HIV response in Africa. Jerry Lanier has promised that the U.S. will continue to assist the Government to identify new funding streams, working with bilateral and multilateral donors.

HIV prevalence is currently at 6.7 per cent but research shows that it is likely to increase. In late 1980 and early 1990’s it had risen to as high as 30 per cent but due to government efforts, and through sensitization programs it has been reduced to the current 6.7 per cent.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
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