A step toward opening HIV care to LGBTI Ugandans

Groups of Ugandan key affected populations meet at the Grand Global Hotel  on Jan. 29 to nominate representatives to serve on the Country Coordinating Mechanism panel, which helps decide about HIV services in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association)
Groups of Ugandan key affected populations meet at the Grand Global Hotel on Jan. 29 to nominate representatives to serve on the Country Coordinating Mechanism panel, which helps decide about HIV services in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association)

LGBTI people, sex workers and drug users in Uganda have moved a step closer to having representatives on the health policy panel that could improve their access to HIV services.

A previous election to choose representatives of those key population groups — groups with elevated risk of HIV infection — was ruled invalid earlier this month on procedural grounds. As a result, those groups still have no official representatives on the Ugandan health policy panel known as the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM).

In a gathering at Kampala’s Grand Global Hotel on Jan. 29, five key population groups chose five nominees each for seats on the CCM panel.  In a new election scheduled for Feb. 5, those nominees will meet and choose a total of two of their number to serve on the CCM.

The CCM oversees programs and makes key decisions about requests for funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which finances many of Uganda’s anti-AIDS efforts.

Kuchu Times reported that Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has been seeking representation on the CCM since 2010, according to SMUG executive director Frank Mugisha.  In the past, he said, because effective representation was lacking, key affected populations have not benefited from Global Fund projects.

The Global Fund now requires every nation’s CCM to include representatives of key affected populations, because their health needs have often been neglected in many countries, particularly in those, like Uganda, where same-sex intimacy is a criminal offense.

For example, among Ugandan men who have sex with men (MSM), the HIV infection rate is an estimated 12 to 33 percent, compared to 7.3 percent for all Ugandans.

In the nomination results from Jan. 29:

  • Drug users selected five nominees from Mbale, Wakiso, Gheto Youth-Kampala-Kawempe Division, Nakasongola and Kampala Central Division.
  • Sex workers selected five nominees from Kampala (2), Mbarara, Malaba and Gulu).
  • MSM and transgender groups each selected five nominees.
  • Another group of key affected populations, including LGBTI, selected five nominees, including Mugisha of SMUG and Kikonyogo Kivumbi of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.

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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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