Citing the poor performance of SA’s HIV programme, the US President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief earlier threatened to slash funding.
The Donald Trump administration’s backtracking on a plan to cut US funding for South Africa’s HIV programme by 30%, which is $200 million (about R2.9 billion), is “a major victory for people living with HIV”, say non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Citing the poor performance of SA’s HIV programme, the US President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (Pepfar) earlier threatened to slash funds to the country.
Pepfar based its earlier decision on “South Africa’s system failures”, which it said led to “substantial numbers of people stopping lifesaving HIV treatment”.
Among the NGOs welcoming the latest development were Health Gap, Médecins Sans Frontières, National Association of People Living with HIV and Aids, Positive Action Campaign, Positive Women’s Network, South African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and Aids, Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
The TAC’s Anele Yawa said: “We are relieved the potential funding cut has been averted because it risked derailing our national HIV response and ultimately harming people living with HIV.
“The SA government is not doing enough. The public healthcare system remains deeply dysfunctional, with the HIV and tuberculosis response being undermined by mismanaged and underfunded provincial healthcare systems. There is a shortage of healthcare workers.”
The about-turn, decided on during the second round of Pepfar’s planning meetings in Washington DC, will now see SA receiving up to $730 million in the 2019/20 financial year.
Health Gap’s Lotti Rutter said: “Some of Pepfar’s ‘surge’ funds were committed to the hiring of an additional 8,000 community healthcare workers. We now know they were never hired and are only now being recruited.
“The plan also included a promise to hire 12,000 clinical and support staff, including doctors and nurses. Yet more than a year later, less than 3,000 new staff have been hired.
“To improve impact, it is crucial Pepfar uses this money to rapidly implement the agreed plan, including increasing human resource capacity at the frontline of HIV service delivery in SA.
“We call on Pepfar to fund game-changing, evidence-based interventions that give people the best chance to get on and stay on treatment,” said Vuyokazi Gonyela of Section 27.
“Pepfar, the Global Fund and government must all be held accountable for implementing high-quality programmes and investing in interventions that strengthen the weak health system.”