South Africa To Receive $40M from United States To Combat HIV/AIDS
U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Cameron Hume on Tuesday announced that South Africa will receive an initial $40 million from the United States to help combat HIV/AIDS, BuaNews/AllAfrica.com reports (Freeman, BuaNews/AllAfrica.com, 2/3). The funds will be administered by the U.S. embassy, which -- along with the South African government -- has already identified some programs that will receive funding. According to Hume, some funds have already been awarded, according to the SAPA/Mail & Guardian (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 2/3). The funding is part of President Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative, through which the administration hopes to prevent seven million new HIV infections, treat two million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs and provide care for 10 million HIV-positive adults and orphans (Xinhua News Agency, 2/3). Hume said, "We are now at a point where we will be asking ourselves what do we do, working with our South African partners, to ensure that ... the aid is actually getting to individual South Africans who need the help." He added, "Until we know there are specific children being helped by these programs or until we know that prevention efforts are getting to South Africans, until we know that people who are sick are getting their medicine, we cannot really say we have made any progress" (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 2/3). Hume also said that the South African government has "given us clear guidelines on how to go about using these funds so we stay in line with their own HIV and AIDS program of action" (BuaNews/AllAfrica.com, 2/3). According to Hume, fighting the epidemic will take more than money, the SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports. "I don't think $40 million is the answer. Getting active with the kind of programs we are able to fund will help us to find answers. Obviously, money alone or programs alone aren't enough, but I think they are a big help," Hume said (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 2/3).
South Africa Cuts HIV/AIDS Budget
The South African government has cut by more than 66% its HIV/AIDS budget for the current fiscal year, the Financial Times reports. The government had allocated nearly $42.45 million for its new antiretroviral drug program, but the treasury has reduced funding to $12.8 million (Degli Innocenti/Lamont, Financial Times, 2/3). The South African Cabinet in November 2003 approved a plan for a national HIV/AIDS treatment program, including the distribution of free antiretroviral drugs through service points in every health district within one year and in every local municipality within five years. The program aims to treat 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008. About 25% of South Africa's economically active individuals are HIV-positive, with about five million total HIV cases in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/28). Joanne Collinge, a spokesperson for the South African Department of Health, said that $12.9 million is "adequate for the preparatory phase" of the rollout. The health department said that any delay in funding has been based on a need to "do things properly and thoroughly," according to the Times. But AIDS advocacy groups, including the Treatment Action Campaign, said that the delays stem from "completely unjustifiable neglect," the Times reports. TAC Secretary Mark Heywood said, "We seriously doubt the politicians' commitment to make a success of the plan. Even the [$12.8 million] still earmarked for ARVs have not yet been dispensed to the provinces" (Financial Times, 2/3). Swazi Hlubi, lead coordinator of the advocacy group AIDS Therapeutic Treatment Now-South Africa, said, "This budget cut serves as the death knell for the fleeting promise of widespread treatment access to life-saving AIDS drugs that our government promised us here in South Africa" (ATTN-SA release, 2/3). South African Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel is set to unveil the country's annual budget on Feb. 18, the Times reports (Financial Times, 2/3).
Businesses 'Slow' To React to HIV/AIDS
South African businesses have been "slow to respond" to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a final report released on Tuesday by the South African Business Coalition on HIV & AIDS, Reuters reports (Chege, Reuters, 2/3). SABCOHA and the South African Bureau for Economic Research surveyed 1,006 South African companies in October and November. According to preliminary findings that were released in December, approximately 30% of the firms reported higher labor turnover rates, 27% had "lost experience and skills" and 24% amassed recruitment and training costs because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The survey -- which was conducted among the manufacturing, retail, wholesale, motor trade and building and construction sectors -- also found that HIV/AIDS has had a "smaller or less noticeable" impact on the demand side of business, with less than 10% of companies participating in the survey reporting a negative impact on their sales (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/11/03). The report says, "It seems that HIV/AIDS has had a larger or more noticeable impact on the production side of business, with more than 30% of all firms reporting that HIV/AIDS had reduced productivity or increased absenteeism." SABCOHA spokesperson Leighton McDonald said that the survey indicates that "HIV/AIDS is undoubtedly a bottom-line issue for business." SABCOHA Chair Gaby Magomola said, "If we do not tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS effectively, we will be failing our duty as citizens of this world. HIV/AIDS will pose a considerable economic impact if left unchecked" (Reuters, 2/3).