South African Health Minister Criticizes ‘Operational Problems’ with Global Fund to Fight AIDS
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Saturday at a three-day youth meeting on AIDS in Benoni, South Africa, accused the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria of "acting in bad faith" when it approved a grant for KwaZulu-Natal province, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/20). In April, the fund approved a one-year, multimillion-dollar grant that would allow the province to expand the Harvard AIDS Institute's Enhancing Care Initiative from one hospital to all clinics in the province. The South African government last month tried to block the grant, stating that the grant application did not go through the national government before being submitted to the fund as specified in the application guidelines. KwaZulu-Natal officials said that they applied directly to the fund because South Africa had not established a Country Coordinating Mechanism at the time of application. The South African National AIDS Committee has since been designated as the nation's CCM. In a statement released last week, KwaZulu-Natal Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that he and Tshabalala-Msimang had agreed to pool the funds under the National AIDS Council, which would use the funds "in a manner that will benefit all the provinces equitably and within programs contained within the proposals submitted to the Global Fund" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/18).
Tshabalala-Msimang said on Saturday that the fund was "trying to bypass the democratically elected government" with the grant to KwaZulu-Natal. She said, "Perhaps this is because the fund does not trust governments elected by the people." Tshabalala-Msimang also questioned the large grant to South Africa when other African nations received no funds. "It is embarrassing when the fund allocates $166 million to South Africa and only $5 million to Zimbabwe when other needy countries received nothing," she said (Agence France-Presse, 7/20). Tshabalala-Msimang said that the Global Fund must address "structural and operational problems" before "money could practically be distributed to countries benefiting from the fund" (South African Press Association, 7/20). She added that South Africa would accept the grant to KwaZulu-Natal but would "use it to benefit all nine of the country's provinces" (Agence France-Presse, 7/20). However, Global Fund spokesperson Melanie Zipperer said that it cannot reallocate the grant to the South African government and that the government must submit new grant proposals to receive the funds. AIDS activists and the head of the Anglican church in South Africa have called for Tshabalala-Msimang to resign, stating that she is "jeopardizing" the grant (Associated Press, 7/20).