South African Budget Allots Additional $408 Million for HIV/AIDS Over Next Three Years
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel yesterday presented to Parliament the administration's budget for fiscal year 2003-2004, which includes an increase in HIV/AIDS spending, the Associated Press reports. Manuel said that the budget will include an additional $408 million over the next three years for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, counseling, testing and home-based care. The funds will supplement the $41.3 million in the current fiscal year's budget, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 2/26). Manuel said that the budget "further reinforces the [administration's] enhanced response to HIV/AIDS." But critics of the budget said that it does not offer a "clear commitment" on financing for a national antiretroviral treatment program, SAPA/SABCNews.com reports. The health ministry has said that it is waiting for a report from an interdepartmental task force convened to examine the "viability" of such a program before committing to a plan. The country's Estimates of National Expenditure document, released to coincide with Manuel's budget presentation, says, "Investigations on the introduction of a national antiretroviral program are far advanced, and recommendations are close to finalization." Zackie Achmat, chair of the Treatment Action Campaign, said, "We were hoping for a clear and unequivocal statement that HIV/AIDS would be treated and they would sign the treatment plan. We are (still) hopeful, but we are disappointed at this missed opportunity." In addition, Alison Hickey, manager of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa's research unit on AIDS and public finance, said the $408 million was "part of the budgetary process all along" and not really "new money" for HIV/AIDS (SAPA/SABCNews.com, 2/26). Approximately 4.7 million South Africans -- 11% of the total population -- are HIV-positive, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 2/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.