Last week, the director general of Uganda Aids Commission, Dr Christine Ondoa, announced that beginning next year, new patients enrolling for HIV/Aids treatment will pay for themselves because donors are withdrawing their financial support and diverting it to other chronic ailments such as cancer and diabetes.
The donors’ main contention is that Uganda has failed to bring down HIV infections like other countries have done. The national HIV prevalence stands at 7.3 per cent, up from about six per cent in the past.
The donors contribute 80 per cent of the HIV treatment costs, but instead of seeing progress for their astronomical financial input, the infections are shooting up. It is both frustrating and annoying.
The donors don’t see the point in continuing to fund a futile programme. The government has been contributing only 20 per cent to the HIV treatment programme. Dr Ondoa says without donor funding, the government will not be able to provide treatment to new HIV patients.
The problem appears even bigger than that. Without donor funding, the government may even fail to provide treatment to existing HIV patients.
The government says it does not have the money yet it wants to create 36 new redundant parliamentary constituencies, which will increase the cost and scope of political administration, leaving thousands of HIV patients to die due to lack of treatment after the donors close their money taps in 2016.
An MP is paid at least Shs20m every month. Treatment for each HIV patient on first line doze costs Shs40,000 per month. Treatment for a patient on second line doze is 100,000 per month.
Therefore, the Shs20m monthly package for an MP can save or prolong lives of 500 and 200 HIV patients on first line and second line treatment respectively in the same period. The new 36 MPs will cost the government a staggering Shs720m in salaries per month.
This amount can provide treatment for 18,000 and 7,200 HIV patients on first line and second line dozes. It is pathetic and laughable to leave 25,000 citizens to die for lack of HIV treatment and decide to spend the money that would have saved their lives, on paying political administrators.
Government must save people’s lives first. Politicians represent living people, not graves. They will not represent trees when the people are dead due to lack of treatment. Let’s get our priorities right.