South African Finance Minister Announces Country Will Spend Additional $317M Over Three Years for HIV/AIDS Programs
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on Wednesday announced that the country will spend an additional $317 million over the next three years on programs to fight HIV/AIDS, bringing the total amount to be spent by the national and provincial governments on HIV/AIDS to $1.9 billion over three years, the SAPA/Independent Online reports. Most of the additional money will go toward funding the national treatment and care program (SAPA/Independent Online, 2/18). The South African Cabinet in November 2003 approved a plan for a national HIV/AIDS treatment program, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs. 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, 2/12). According to the budget plan, the provinces will spend approximately $56 million on treatment in fiscal year 2004-2005, increasing to nearly $97.9 million in FY 2005-2006 and to more than $166 million in FY 2006-2007. The total is about $30.2 million more than previous estimates, Reuters reports (Bell, Reuters, 2/18). In November 2003, Manuel presented a budget to the National Assembly that included $275 million in funding for the rollout of a national antiretroviral drug plan, including the purchase of medicines and related supplies (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/13/03).
More Budget Details
According to thec budget plan also says that the provinces also will receive conditional grants through the Department of Health, Department of Education and Department of Social Development, South Africa's Business Day reports. The conditional grants include about $19 million in FY 2004-2005 through the education department for life-skills programs, which have been shown to help reduce HIV incidence in people under age 20. The social services department will receive more than $10.5 million for AIDS orphan care and home-care projects, according to Business Day. Manuel said that a "range" of other preventive programs also will be funded, including loveLife, Soul City, Lifeline and other nongovernmental organizations. Programs to prevent HIV/AIDS also will be expanded through Trucking Against AIDS, Commuters AIDS Project, Traditional Leaders AIDS Program and Men in Partnership Against AIDS (Hartley, Business Day, 2/19). The budget includes roughly $196 million for the health department's condom and prevention programs (SAPA/Independent Online, 2/18).
Treatment Action Campaign Secretary Mark Heywood said, "We believe that the amount [of HIV/AIDS funding included in the budget], in keeping with budgetary estimates that were made in cabinet's operational plan for the rollout of HIV/AIDS treatment, permits antiretroviral rollout and the continuation of other aspects of the treatment plan." He added, "To ensure this, we need involvement of the communities, proper training of caregivers and to have audits to ensure that all the money is used accordingly." Heywood also said that TAC supports the health department's role in "coordinating the program and in assisting in areas such as bulk purchasing of medicines," adding, "It makes perfect sense as the bulk of the money will go to provinces where treatment will take place." The Democratic Alliance party said that there is "no guarantee" that the health department will be able to use the money efficiently, according to Business Day. DA health spokesperson Sandy Kalyan said, "There was a rollover of funds dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS last year and we hope the money will be used well this year" (Business Day, 2/19). Pholokgolo Ramothwala, TAC spokesperson for Gauteng province, said, "We are just hoping that the department of health will spend [the money] wisely," adding, "People are still dying and now Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has no more excuses" (SAPA/Independent Online, 2/18).
New York Times Examines Delays in Antiretroviral Treatment Program
The New York Times on Friday examined the delay in implementing South Africa's national antiretroviral treatment program, which has "drawn furious criticism" from HIV/AIDS advocates, who have said that it could be "several more months" before the government starts treating patients. Critics also have said that the program delays are "symptomatic of the lack of political will" in the country to address AIDS, according to the Times. TAC Director Nathan Geffen said, "There is no excuse for the program continuing to be delayed. The money is there. Everything is ready. All that needs to happen is for the government to purchase the drugs," adding, "That has taken way too long." But Dr. Kgosi Letlape, head of the South African Medical Association, said, "We have waited for this for years. If it takes an extra month to ensure it takes off with no hiccups, I have absolutely no problem with that" (LaFraniere, New York Times, 2/20). The complete article is available online.