Funding crunch threatens AIDS fight

Funding constraints look set to reverse the progress made so far in combating the spread of HIV and AIDS in countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, an international medical humanitarian agency said this week.

Geneva-based medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières, said current gains in the fight against HIV and AIDS were at risk of being wiped away unless the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria increased assistance to those countries.

“Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around. Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act, but this means nothing if there is no money to make it happen,” said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign.

He said that in several countries where MSF works, the governments were seeking to implement ambitious national HIV treatment plans by incorporating ‘accelerated treatment’ components.

These include initiation of treatment for people at an earlier stage of the disease, immediate initiation of treatment for HIV-positive people with HIV-negative partners; and immediate initiation of life-long treatment for HIV-positive expectant mothers.

However, without increased funding, opportunities to prevent the spread of infection are being missed and there is a real risk of going backwards.

“MSF witnesses how even existing national treatment programs are now under threat of being severely curtailed in countries such as Zimbabwe,” he said.

MSF called on the Global Fund not to delay, downsize, or cap its newest round of funding applications. Zimbabwe has complained during the past month about delays by the Global Fund to release funds for HIV and TB programmes.

It said that it is yet to receive $3 million from Round Eight of the Global Fund meant for tuberculosis programmes after the United Nations Development Programme failed to release the money for more than two years. Part of the money is supposed to buy sophisticated X-Ray machines, with the remainder going towards the servicing of laboratory machines.

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