By Taddeo Bwambale
Government will, starting this year, enroll an additional 700,000 people on Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs), expanding the number of people with access to free HIV drugs to 1.3 million people.
The intervention is also expected to double the expenditure on ARVs to about sh300b ($120m), as Government steps in to stem the rising HIV infections.
Dr Alex Ario, the coordinator of the AIDS control programme in the ministry of health sad putting more people on ARVs would be guaranteed with increased government funding.
“We have about 600,000 people enrolled on ARVs. About the same number of people are on HIV care but not on treatment. Our target is to enroll that group on ARVs,” Ario explained.
According to Ario, Uganda already has supplies of the ARVs, enough treat about 1.2 million people up to June 2015.
“We acquired ARVs for mothers to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. We can use those ARVs, but will need more supplies to ensure that expectant mothers are safe,” he said.
The health ministry is banking on a plan to introduce an HIV Trust Fund to generate funds and sustain HIV programmes.
The proposal, currently awaiting approval of Parliament, proposes a small levy to fund HIV programmes.
If approved, levies will be made on bank transactions and interest, air tickets, beer, soft drinks and cigarettes, as well taxes on goods and services traded within Uganda.
Small fees will also be levied on civil servants' salaries; corporate and withholding tax will be increased slightly and a small tax will be added to telephone calls and to each kilowatt of electricity consumed.
The levy is against the backdrop that HIV/AIDS funding in Uganda is largely dependent on donors, with emerging fears that some of them are likely to pull out.
Besides the funding gap is the threat of new HIV infections of up to 400 people daily. HIV prevalence stands at 7.3% from 6.4% in 2006. About 1.4 million Ugandans are HIV positive.
Uganda is the only country in east and southern Africa, and one of only two countries in Africa where HIV prevalence is increasing, instead of reducing.
Ario warned that gains made in the fight against Aids could be reversed if government does not increase its share of funding for HIV/Aids programmes.
If established, the trust fund is expected to generate about sh735b ($300m) annually for HIV programmes such as condom distribution, safe male circumcision and awareness campaigns.
Kenya and Tanzania are planning to set up an Aids Trust Fund, while Zimbabwe which established the fund is heralded as a model country, generating over $20m annually.