Funding crisis thwarts AIDS work

Zimbabwe is on the verge of a new HIV/AIDS crisis due to a severe funding challenge, international medical group, Médecins Sans Frontières, said in a recent report.

The funding shortfall could lead to the closure of programmes aimed at fighting the HIV pandemic and the country failing to meet its 2015 targets. The report, released in Johannesburg this week, is entitled Reversing HIV/AIDS; How Advances are Being Held Back By Funding Shortages. It says that the lack of funding would reverse the strides Zimbabwe had achieved since the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in the late 1980s.

“Looking ahead, funding shortfalls threaten to interrupt treatment for patients already on antiretroviral treatment. ARV shortages affecting 86 500 patients are forecast for 2012, primarily due to closing of the Expanded Support Programme, rising costs and lack of additional funding. According to estimates, shortages could affect 112 800 patients by 2014. National buffer stocks are currently being used to cover shortages,” MSF stated.

The organisation’s sentiments follow the decision by the Board of the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS to cancel new grants because of financial shortfalls.

“Furthermore, the Clinton HIV/AIDS initiative and UNITAD will soon end support for paediatric treatment, leaving up to 5 000 children without ART next year and larger paediatric gaps from 2013 onwards. The country aims to place 51 000 children on treatment as of 2015, but has only secured funding for 24 percent of that goal,” MSF said.

ESP, a basket funding mechanism set up in 2007 through which donors, mainly in the United Kingdom, Sweden Norway, Ireland and Canada, supported HIV/AIDS interventions, is coming to an end in December. This will be replaced by the Health Transitional Fund, but that fund will not finance commodities such as ARVs.

All these setbacks make it unlikely that Zimbabwe will attain its targets of making ART available to 85 percent of those in need by 2015.

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