Anyone, rich or poor, can get HIV/AIDS. But the quality of treatment often depends on whether you have money or not. In Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, the AIDS Information Center caters to everyone needing testing and counseling. But for those who can afford it, the A-I-C also offers a private clinic – or executive wing - with air-conditioned waiting rooms in posh surroundings.
Sophia Mukasa-Monico is a senior AIDS Program officer with the Global Health Council and is familiar with the AIC. She describes the clients at the executive wing as “elite.”
"And that can mean so many things, it can mean high political officials, it can mean the very rich people, it can mean Army men or policemen or uniformed men"
Ms. Mukasa-Monico says people with money have the ability to choose where they wish to be treated. But besides the issue of money, she says it’s also a matter of “freedom of choice and privacy.”
"If I’m a busy person, and I still have my own self stigma, and I don’t want to be identified as a person living with HIV, and yet I really want to find out for myself apart from just suspecting, if there is a way I can get a service – even pay for it – without being constrained in making a line of one-hundred people, and standing there for eight hours, then that should be availed."
While the poor are not able to attend the private clinic, they do benefit indirectly. Those who pay the full cost help subsidize treatment for the poor. Ms. Mukasa-Monico says the “full cost” payments – some five times higher than the A-I-C’s regular clinic - are put to good use.
"The money that is coming out from this private clinic will be used again to improve the services overall in the AIDS Information Center."
The HIV/AIDS specialist says there’s a bottom line to the need for the A-I-C’s executive wing, and the human rights issues surrounding it.
"I think everybody has a choice to choose whether they go public or not." News of the executive wing was first reported in the Christian Science Monitor. Ms. Mukasa-Monico says although there are a number of different clinics in Kampala, the A-I-C is the most comprehensive. She says it specializes in prevention and counseling and has the “biggest referral system for care services.”