U.S. suspends some aid to Uganda over anti-gay law

by Reuters
Thursday, 13 March 2014 19:19 GMT

Ugandan anti-gay activist Pastor Martin Ssempa (C) leads anti-gay supporters as they celebrate after Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality in Kampala, Uganda, February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu

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By Philippa Croome

KAMPALA, March 13 (Reuters) - The United States has suspended some aid to Uganda's ministry of health, officials said on Thursday, in its first concrete move reported in response to the passing of an anti-homosexuality law.

The U.S. had signalled it was reviewing its ties with the East African country after President Yoweri Museveni signed in legislation on Feb. 24 that punishes gay sex with jail terms up to life.

"As a result of this review process, a portion of the U.S. Centre for Disease Control's (CDC) cooperative agreement with the Ministry of Health has been put on hold pending this review," a senior U.S. government official told Reuters on Thursday.

The U.S. official did not say how much aid was withheld but added the CDC had spent $3.9 million on a ministry of health programme last year.

Uganda's health ministry said it had been told it would no longer be able to access money from a fund used to buy antiretroviral drugs and HIV testing kits.

Ministry spokeswoman Rukia Nakamatte said the freeze would affect 50 of its workers.

The U.S. government estimates its total assistance to Uganda stood at about $723 million in 2013. About half a million Ugandans with HIV or AIDS receive help through U.S. programmes.

The World Bank and donors - Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands - have already withheld aid or loans worth more than $118 million.

(Additional reporting and writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Drazen Jorgic and Andrew Heavens)

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