South Africa To Spend $1.7 Billion on HIV/AIDS Over Next Three Years; Cabinet To Vote on National Treatment Plan
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on Wednesday delivered a budget to the National Assembly, which included at least $1.7 billion for HIV/AIDS over the next three years, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The estimate includes $275 million in funding for the rollout of a national antiretroviral drug plan, including the purchase of medicines and related supplies, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/12). The South African government on Aug. 8 called for the Ministry of Health to develop a national program to provide antiretroviral medications to residents with HIV/AIDS. A special task team on Sept. 30 presented to the health minister a draft plan of the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/7). Members of the cabinet's social and economic committees at a joint meeting on Wednesday received a briefing on the plan, according to the South African Press Association (South African Press Association, 11/12). The cabinet is expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the plan (Kahn, Business Day, 11/13). Although the contents of the report have been "closely guarded," observers predict that each of the country's 56 health districts will have a center for delivering the drugs, South Africa's Business Day reports. Drug distribution in largely metropolitan provinces, such as Gauteng and Western Cape, will probably begin immediately after the plan is approved. Centers in more rural provinces -- some of which lack trained medical workers and infrastructure -- will start more slowly and gradually build up, according to Saadiq Kariem, health secretary for the African National Congress (Kahn, Business Day, 11/12).
Cabinet members next week are expected to give final approval of the operational plan, according to Reuters (Bell, Reuters, 11/12). Cabinet committee members on Wednesday made suggestions on issues, including the scope of research performed during implementation of the program and legal matters, to be addressed by the Department of Health and the working group that developed the plan at next week's meeting, according to a statement by the Government Communication and Information System. The committee also said that the Treasury Department had allocated sufficient resources to implement the program (South African Press Association, 11/12). "We are confident that there is enough money here to get the program launched across the country, and we will review the amount in further budgets," a Treasury official said (Reuters, 11/12).