Article Of Interest: Budget squeeze has global HIV/Aids fund on the skids


Treatment programmes for people with HIV/Aids may have to be scaled down – and some may close down altogether – thanks to an international funding shortfall, Treatment Action Campaign chairman Nonkosi Khumalo said yesterday.

Drug programmes would be hit hard by a lower-than-expected three-year budget for the Global Fund To Fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, Khumalo said.

The fund was set up eight years ago to promote universal drug treatment to fight the world’s three worst pandemics. Earlier this month it announced a three-year budget of $11.7-billion – an increase of $2-billion over the previous three-year budget but well below the amount needed to expand treatment.

"It means some programmes might close down – some people might not be sustained on treatment," said Khumalo. "That is a huge problem."

She said TAC, which held its annual conference this week in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, would campaign for more funding, especially from countries yet to contribute to the fund, including Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

About 80% of South Africa’s drug treatment programme is government funded and the rest is donor funded, but the situation is the reverse in many neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe and Malawi. The collapse of treatment there could lead to massive migration into South Africa’s healthcare system, further burdening already stretched health facilities, Khumalo said.

Eric Goemaere, Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) regional adviser for TB & HIV/Aids, said the fund’s latest budget was "below the worst-case (funding) scenario" of $13-billion. As a result, many programmes would not be able to follow World Health Organisation guidelines and switch to better drugs or more healthy drug protocols – such as starting drug treatment earlier


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