Funding cuts a threat to Aids programmes

UNIVERSAL access to antiretrovirals in poor countries is under threat as donors reduce funding for Aids programmes, Medecins SansFrontieres has warned.

UNIVERSAL access to antiretrovirals in poor countries is under threat as donors reduce funding for Aids programmes, Medecins SansFrontieres has warned.

According to the MSF's recent report, titled "Punishing Success? Early Signs of a Retreat from Commitment to HIV-Aids Care and Treatment", funders' commitment to supporting Aids treatment for people in poor countries is waning.

The report largely focuses on two of the world's foremost programmes that support Aids treatment. They are the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria, and the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

"Last year, the Global Fund approved Round 8 Proposals. Unfortunately, because of lack of funding the Global Fund had to cut already approved proposals by about R11billion," said Sharonann Lynch, policy adviser for MSF.

"Another case in point (is) PEPFAR. In Uganda, currently, PEPFAR-supported facilities have been told that they must suspend treatment for new patients in need. Some are doing what they can and, at least, putting pregnant women on treatment or the very sick on treatment, or people who have TB-HIV co-infection.

"Others have been told that they can only put new people on treatment if someone dies that is currently on ARVs, or if someone is lost to follow-up. None of that is good news," Lynch continued.

"In South Africa, PEPFAR-supported facilities are referring patients that have yet to be started on ARVs to other facilities," she said, speaking of the devastation caused by the reduction of funding.

The Global Fund relies heavily on individual governments and businesses for funding. At its board meeting this week, it has to decide whether it has sufficient money to support proposals for Round 9 of applications.

Already there is talk that funding for this round will be reduced by about R7,3billion. The board may not call for new rounds of applications next year. If it decides not to due to lack of funding, it will be the first time that it has not provided financial support in a given year.

According to UNAids, the Global Fund and PEPFAR had put a total of 2,95million people around the world on ARVs by the end of last year. But they are not the only ones going back on their commitments.

"The UK had led the charge for unanimous support for universal access to treatment within the G8 countries, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2005 and 2006.

"Now the UK is switching gears, shifting its funds and political spotlight elsewhere. The Netherlands is considering a 30percent reduction in its funds next year, while France is also considering reducing HIV funding," said Lynch. - Health-e News

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