South Africa to Boost HIV/AIDS Spending by $329 Million Over Three Years
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced yesterday that the government will spend an additional $329 million over the next three years on HIV/AIDS programs, Reuters reports. The government's current budget allocates $487 million for HIV/AIDS efforts for the three fiscal years following April 2003, but the additional funding was included in a mid-term budget policy statement. Although Manuel declined to give details of how the additional money would be spent, a government source stated that a large portion of the allocation would fund the government's plan to "gradual[ly]" make antiretroviral drugs available through public hospitals and clinics. The policy statement stipulates that the extra funding will be used for "appropriate treatment regimens," and one government source said that this wording pertains to antiretroviral drugs (Boyle, Reuters, 10/29). Manuel added that the funding would also be used to equip provincial health centers with adequate technology (Agence France-Presse, 10/29). Nathan Geffen, a spokesperson for the South African AIDS group Treatment Action Campaign, said that the additional funding is a "positive" step but that lawmakers are still displaying "insufficient commitment to [providing] antiretroviral therapy" (Reuters, 10/29). "As much as this is good news, what is more essential is for the government to formulate a clear and thorough HIV/AIDS treatment plan so that the money is used appropriately," TAC Chair Zackie Achmat added (South African Press Association, 10/29). With five million HIV-positive citizens, South Africa has the largest HIV-positive population in the world, and AIDS advocates have criticized the government for not "attack[ing] the epidemic aggressively" (Agence France-Presse, 10/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.