District Diverts HIV Cash

People living with HIV/Aids in Ntoroko district are desperate for treatment following the diversion of funds meant for the Home Based Aids Care Program. In 2011, Ntoroko district launched the Home Based Aids Care Program in Rwebisengo, Kanara and Buntungama sub counties,where access to health centers is a challenge to residents. Three hundred patients enrolled for the programme. Under the programme, trained volunteers would regularly visit infected patients at home, to deliver medication such as anti-retroviral drugs and to collect information about adherence to anti retroviral treatment and refer ailing patients to hospitals for specialized care.

In the 2013/2014 financial year the district allocated 350 million shillings for the progarmme. The money was meant to purchase more bicycles to ease transport, pay allowances for the volunteers and train more volunteers for the programme. However Uganda Radio Network has established that some of the funds were diverted to pay rent for office space for district staff, renovate some schools and repair district vehicles. This has left more than fifty volunteers stranded and can’t attend to the patients.

Patients who have been benefiting from the programme have no option but to travel long distances to access t treatment.  Bernard Alinganyira, a resident of Nombe village says that for the past month he has been traveling to Fort Portal referral hospital for treatment, which he says is costly. Alinganyira says that he would prefer to receive treatment at Karugutu health center IV but it is always congested. He says that the volunteers have often been checking on his condition while at home and have adequate time to counsel him.

Geoffrey Kyomuhendo, the chairperson of people living with HIV/ Aids wants the district to refund the funds for the programme. Kyomuhendo says that the programme has been helping patients who are weak to get to the health centers. He also says that because of stigma, some patients opted to be treated at home rather than go to health facilities as they didn’t want to be identified as HIV patients.

Aggrey Mugenyi, the Ntoroko deputy chief administrative officer says the district erred when it didn’t budget for renting office space in the 2013/2014 financial year and other activities in the administration sector.  He says several district officials have been using the playground of Ntoroko Secondary School to conduct their work, which has been inconveniencing.

Mugenyi says that outreach centres, where patients can access anti-retroviral drugs will temporarily be set up to replace the programme.  Two years ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, hailed the home-based approach to AIDS care as an effective way to achieve good adherence and response to antiretroviral therapy in rural areas.

According to the CDC, access to anti retroviral therapy is expanding in resource-limited areas, where high transport costs prevent many of those in need from getting to health facilities to receive treatment

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