You cannot put a supervisor and contractor under one leadership. The supervisor should be independent of the contractor
Government has cleared the air regarding "rumours" that it intended to dissolve the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), which has coordinated the AIDS response in the country for the last 24 years, bringing down prevalence from over 18% 20 years ago to 7.3% today.
Concerns were building, with civil society organizations including Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organizations (UNASO) questioning the Parliamentary Budget Committee recommendation in December last year that the law which instituted the UAC be amended to have it under the health ministry.
Several AIDS activists opposed the proposal, with some saying it would be detrimental to the gains the country has registered in the fight against the epidemic.
Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development advocacy officer Kenneth Mwehonge said: "we are not yet near the beginning of the end to HIV. We cannot start thinking of dissolving the UAC."
But, health minister, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, said government didn't plan to dissolve the UAC, causing some calm to the activists.
"I don't think anybody has intentions to dissolve the UAC. That would be madness. It was only brought (in parliament) as to whether it (UAC) should be reflected under the health ministry or Office of the President. And to bring such a proposal (calling for the amendment of the UAC law) to cabinet you need a bill," Elioda Timwesigye said.
In December 2015, the Parliamentary Budget Committee received and discussed the National Budget Framework Paper for the 2016/17 financial year and Fiscal Medium Term Framework for 2016/17 to 2020/21.
The findings and recommendations by the Committee were presented to the Speaker and subsequently discussed by the Parliamentary plenary last week.
In case of UAC, the Parliamentary Budget Committee observed, on pages 35 and 49 sections 129 and 169 respectively, that the Uganda AIDS Commission is consistently recorded as a vote under the health sector although it does not report to the health ministry, rather to the Office of the President.
The committee noted that by maintaining UAC under the President's office and the AIDS Control Program under the health ministry duplicated the initiatives' roles, recommending that the former also be moved under the health ministry.
But, addressing a press conference at the UNASO home in Kampala Monday, executive director Joshua Wamboga said the UAC and AIDS Control Program's mandate weren't necessarily similar.
While the UAC played an oversight role, coordinating all HIV/AIDS responses in the country, the AIDS Control Program is one of the implementers of the response, Rev Sam Ruteikara, the civil society inter-constituency coordination committee chairperson, said.
"You cannot put a supervisor and contractor under one leadership. The supervisor should be independent of the contractor," Sam Ruteikara said.
Since institution in 1992, the UAC has coordinated HIV responses in the country, specifically mobilizing and monitoring HIV resources and formulating the abstinence, being faithful and use of condoms strategy plus the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which dropped new infections to 99,000 cases in 2014 from 140,000 recorded in 2013 and the number of babies born with the virus to less than 8000.
"We still have only about 800, 000 people of the approximated 1.4m living with HIV. Yes, there could be funding gaps.
But we still need UAC," Brenda Banura, the international community of persons living with HIV/AIDS in East Africa communications officer, said.