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Health

The Surprising Reason Uganda's New Tax on Drinks Could Save Lives

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Nearly 37 million people are living with HIV globally and the majority of them live in poverty in developing countries with poor access to quality healthcare. Uganda is taking a major step to address HIV and AIDS. Join us in taking action here to promote health equity and end preventable deaths.

Uganda just instituted a tax on alcoholic beverages that will generate revenue for HIV treatment programs, which have previously relied primarily on donors, the Guardian reports.

The 2% tax on alcoholic drinks, including beer, spirits, and other liquors is expected to raise $2.5 million annually for a new HIV/AIDS fund, which was established by Uganda's 2014 HIV Prevention and Control Act.

The beverage tax marks a major leap for the country in making its efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS more independent and less reliant on international donors.

Take Action: Stand With Every Woman, Every Child: Ask World Leaders to End Preventable Deaths

"We need to have locally generated revenue to deal with the HIV challenge in the country. In the event that there is reduced funding from the international community, we can be able to sustain our own interventions," Sarah Achieng Opendi, the country's health minister told the Guardian.

Currently, at least 68% of Uganda's funding for HIV treatment comes from donors and 20% from people living with HIV and their families. Only 11% comes from the government and just 1% from the private sector.

In Uganda, an estimated 1.3 million people were living with HIV, including 95,000 children, in 2017. And 26,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

Among young adults, women are disproportionately affected by the virus. HIV was four times as prevalent among females than among males ages 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 in the country as of 2017.

The trend holds true across sub-saharan Africa where young women between 15 and 24 years old are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men their age.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the world's 37 million people living with HIV. As many as 95% of those cases were in developing countries — where many lack access to quality health services — the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2007.

In 2017, only 22 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART), which prevents HIV from progressing to AIDS.

Read More: Hunger Is Linked to Testing Positive for HIV in South Africa, Says New Study

While the number of people undergoing ART has steadily increased since 2000, there is still much progress to be made to ensure everyone diagnosed with HIV can access life-saving healthcare and treatment.

Uganda's new tax will not only generate revenue for HIV treatment domestically — it will set precedent for countries seeking to independently tackle HIV and AIDS as well as other public health crises.

"The 2% of the tax on beverages and water to the trust fund is small compared to the need, but it's a start. I believe other options will be identified to grow the fund and address funding to the HIV response in the country," Sylvia Nakasi, policy and advocacy officer at Uganda Network of Aids Service Organisations told the Guardian.