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Resignation adds uncertainty to Aids battle in Uganda

Prof. Vinand M. Nantulya has resigned as chairman of a Ugandan health policy panel that makes crucial decisions about the country’s anti-Aids projects, including those that often have excluded LGBTI Ugandans from receiving HIV services in the past.

Prof. Vinand M. Nantulya has resigned as chairman of the panel overseeing Global Fund-supported projects that combat Aids in Uganda.
Prof. Vinand M. Nantulya has resigned as chairman of the panel overseeing Global Fund-supported projects that combat Aids in Uganda.

During Nantulya’s four years on the panel, people most at risk for HIV infection at last gained a  voice on the crucial panel, the Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism (UCCM), which oversees programs funded by the Global Fund,  one of the largest health-care funders in Uganda. For the period 2014-2017, the Global Fund  allocated $275.6 million for Uganda’s battles against tuberculosis and HIV.

In March, after a controversial election process that required Nantulya’s intervention, Kikonyogo Kivumbi took a seat on the panel as a representative for LGBT people, sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users.

Nantulya’s resignation creates new uncertainties about Uganda’s Aids battle at an already-uncertain time.

In his resignation letter, Nantulya expressed confidence that he “leave[s] behind a CCM that is positioned to continue to evolve into a very useful tool for the country in the global health financing arena. The quality of representation on the CCM and the integrity, commitment and hardworking nature of the secretariat gives me this confidence.”

The resignation of Nantulya, who has been supportive of efforts to improve access to health care for homosexuals and sex workers, has drawn mixed reactions from sections of Ugandan civil society and government.

Dr. Christine Ondoa (Photo courtesy of Sebaspace)
Dr. Christine Ondoa (Photo courtesy of Sebaspace)

Some praise him for being instrumental in fundraising for Uganda’s national Aids response. Some civil society organizations believe Nantulya is the victim of  internal power wrangles with Dr. Christine Ondoa, the director general of Uganda Aids Commission.

There is a strong likelihood that her commission is going to be closed down after a restructuring of the government’s health bureaucracies, according to an informed observer of health policy in Uganda.

Most believe that Nantulya’s resignation will help ease divisive, faith-based  power struggles in Uganda’s health delivery institutions.  Some factions apparently are close to the evangelical born-again First Lady, Ms. Janet Museveni, while others come from more traditional denominations (Catholics and Anglicans) that are believed to be favored by President Yoweri Museveni.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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