US pledges continued support for Ugandan HIV programs despite Anti-Homosexuality law

US pledges continued support for Ugandan HIV programs despite Anti-Homosexuality law

UGANDA—Dr. Vamsi Vasireddy, the US deputy ambassador to Uganda, has reaffirmed the US government’s commitment to supporting HIV treatment and youth programs that have been critical in the fight against HIV.

This promise follows increased anticipation that the US may remove PEPFAR financing following Uganda’s implementation of homosexual legislation following President Museveni’s signing of the anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) into law on May 26, 2023.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 restricts free expression on LGBT civil rights and imposes tougher punishments for specific types of homosexual behaviour.

This includes the death sentence for “serial offenders” or anyone having same-sex relations with a person with a disability, a child, or an elderly person, among others.

 This legislation also makes the broadly phrased “promotion of homosexuality” illegal, which the US government regards as a sad violation of universal human rights.

In a statement issued on December 11, 2023, the United States stated that it had completed an assessment of the effects of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) adoption on all elements of U.S. engagement with the Government of Uganda and resolved to reduce funding to the Government of Uganda.

The Department of Defense considers halting roughly US$15 million for all biological threat reduction initiatives with the Ugandan Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Tourism, and will continue to assess U.S. government-funded security assistance and military cooperation programs.

Due to concerns about how the AHA affects the Government of Uganda’s ability to deliver services in a non-discriminatory manner, the US Government considered redirecting more than US$5 million from the Government of Uganda to non-governmental implementing partners through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Since the commencement of PEPFAR in 2003, the United States has contributed more than US$100 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response, saving nearly 25 million lives.

This has prevented millions of HIV infections and aided some countries in achieving HIV epidemic control, all while greatly boosting global health and economic security.

Dr. Vasireddy made this pledge during his keynote address at the celebration of the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA), a youth-led NGO that provides leadership and coordination of young people living with HIV aged 12 to 24.

He praised the contribution of young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) in eliminating AIDS, adding that their tenacity, bravery, and ingenuity have pushed others to announce their HIV status, resulting in fewer new infections and less stigma.

He also advised them not to be discouraged because they are not fit for certain tasks because they are valuable and capable of pursuing their aspirations.

He therefore recommended that they use existing resources, reach out to those around them for assistance, and make use of available information. This will offer a stable existence and the freedom to love and be loved, significantly increasing the control and eradication of AIDS by 2030.

Ruth Awori, the executive director of UYPA, on her part, advocated for people living with HIV’s sexual reproductive rights and stated that the organization will establish a training institute with safe corners where youth and people living with HIV can meet and share experiences, access information, and share each other’s challenges and successes.

She went on to note that with the help of the state and other partners such as PEPFAR, the UNYPA has been able to build an enabling environment for YPLHA.

With over 20 years of experience improving the lives of YPLHIV in Uganda through ART clinics, affiliate organizations, and YPLHIV networks, UNYPA remains committed to advocating for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support for healthy and productive lives.

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