1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

  • 0
  • 0


The Politics of HIV/AIDS in Uganda

1 Aug 2006

This paper traces Uganda’s experience of HIV/AIDS, and the reaction of the government, civil society and communities of Uganda to the epidemic.

The motives underlying the decision in 1986 of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government to admit there was an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country are examined. While the HIV prevalence rate was documented to have started dropping as of 1993, it was not until 2000 that President Yoweri Museveni began using the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a success story.

The paper notes that from the mid-1990s, the earlier political and economic gains of President Museveni’s government were being seriously eroded by rising economic mismanagement, high-level corruption, maintenance of a de facto one-party state, failure to pacify the northern half of the country, the fomenting of regional instability and attendant human rights violations.

As a consequence, by 2000 there was a need to project positive achievements—such as the reduction in HIV prevalence—to galvanize support for the flagging fortunes of the NRM government, especially with regard to sustaining donor support. In doing this, the NRM government was helped by donor dynamics, as well as by politics in the United States where Right-wing Republicans used Uganda as an example to showcase the “human side” of President George W. Bush’s administration.

This paper examines the roles of various players—donors, government, non-governmental organizations, and families—in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. It argues that their contributions have been appropriated in a shameless piece of political gamesmanship. The paper also points to some of the critical actions necessary to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with specific reference to Uganda.

Joseph Tumushabe is Lecturer in the Department of Population Studies, Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics, Makerere University, Uganda.

Order PP SPD 28 from UNRISD, 39 pages, 2006; US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students.