Public Figures Express Support for KwaZulu-Natal HIV/AIDS Program
A number of well-known public officials and AIDS advocates have expressed their support for distributing a donation from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to a KwaZulu-Natal program, instead of a national effort coordinated by the South African government, the South African Press Association reports. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the South African Medical Association, University of Natal professor Hoosen Coovadia and the Treatment Action Campaign were among the signatories of a joint statement supporting KwaZulu-Natal's program (South African Press Association, 8/1). In April, the global fund approved a one-year, multimillion-dollar grant that would allow KwaZulu-Natal to expand the Harvard AIDS Institute's Enhancing Care Initiative from one hospital to all clinics in the province. In June the South African government 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 month, KwaZulu-Natal Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that he and South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had agreed to pool the funds under the National AIDS Council, which would use the money "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, 7/22).
In the statement supporting the KwaZulu-Natal program, the signatories "commen[d]" the Enhancing Care Initiative and say that the program could be an example of how antiretroviral treatment could be administered in South Africa and other developing countries. The statement calls on the South African Health Department to "[u]nconditionally endorse" the Enhancing Care Initiative and allow the grant proposal to be "implemented as it stands." The statement also asks the national health department to facilitate additional proposals from South Africa to the Global Fund and to "[r]econstitute the South African National AIDS Council as a legal, functioning, independent entity that truly represents the interests of people with HIV/AIDS." The national health department responded to the statement by saying that the issue of the KwaZulu-Natal grant has already been resolved and that the grant will be put toward national programs mentioned in separate proposals to the fund. The national health department said the joint statement was "irrelevant" because it was not signed by any of the parties involved in the KwaZulu-Natal effort, adding, "The only aim of this statement is to create unnecessary controversy on a matter that is at the advanced stage of being finalized" (South African Press Association, 8/1).