USAID Issues $15M Grant to Ugandan Religious CoalitionUSAID on Thursday through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief issued a $15 million three-year grant to the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda -- a coalition of five religious groups that promote faith-based strategies to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, AFP/Today Online reports. The grant will enable IRCU to widen HIV/AIDS services to local communities through faith-based health units, nongovernmental organizations, churches and mosques, according to the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda. According to Alyson Grunder, an embassy spokesperson, the health units associated with IRCU provide 40% of health care services in the country and will provide the program's clinical components. IRCU also will mobilize and train volunteers to provide care, support, antiretroviral therapy and referrals for specialized care for HIV-positive people. According to the IRCU grant proposal, the coalition also plans to use the money for "promoting delayed initiation of sex among adolescent youth (and) increasing mutual fidelity among couples." IRCU, which was created five years ago, includes the Anglican Church of Uganda, the Catholic Church in Uganda, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, the Uganda Orthodox Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church (AFP/Today Online, 9/14).
Antiretroviral Drugs Expire in Uganda
Antiretroviral drugs in Uganda worth up to $500,000 recently have expired in government medical shops, Plus News reports. According to David Bogonza, general manager of Uganda National Medical Stores, by the time the antiretrovirals -- which have a shelf life of 18 to 24 months -- were stocked, some that were meant to be available for two months had expired. Bogonza added that the problem was exacerbated by an "unprecedented" increase in treatment sites, as Uganda expanded its antiretroviral treatment program from 26 sites in 2004 to 210 sites currently. "For drugs to expire in stores when we have only 80,000 HIV-positive Ugandans enrolled on [antiretrovirals] is inexcusable. It shows that the health ministry is incompetent to manage HIV," Beatrice Were of ActionAid International said, adding, "Once treatment is interrupted, we will have problems like resistance, for example, to tuberculosis treatment, and this can be grave for people living with HIV/AIDS." New stocks of antiretrovirals are available at accredited centers, and officials have said the shortage has been rectified, Plus News reports. Sam Zaramba, director-general of health services, said the situation was under investigation and that "[a]ppropriate action" would be taken against people who did not follow the correct drug distribution protocol (Plus News, 9/14).