The US had planned to no longer fund SA for HIV programmes, but that plan will most likely be reversed, with conditions.
In January 2019, the United States (US) had threatened to cut its financial aid to HIV programmes in South Africa by about 30 percent, which amounts to more than 200 million dollars (R2,8 billion), mainly because of the substantial number of HIV patients who have stopped taking treatment. However, non-government organisations (NGOs) can breathe a sigh of relief as plans to cut funding are likely to be reversed, given that the quality of services for people living with HIV has increased.
In a statement jointly issued by 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, Section27 and Treatment Action Campaign on Monday, 29 April 2019, the eight NGOs noted the importance of the reversed plan.
“The turnaround is a major victory for people living with HIV in the country, as critical resources will be restored,” the NGOs said.
The announcement came during a second round of planning meetings held by the US President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (Pepfar) in Washington DC.
Commenting on the recent developments, the treatment Action Campaign’s (TAC) Anele Yawa said, “We are relieved that the potential cut to funding has been averted – it risked derailing our national HIV response and ultimately harming people living with HIV.”
With this new development, the country will now have the opportunity to receive up to 730 million dollars (R10.4 billion) for the 2019/20 financial year.
The NGOs called for the funding to be used on effective interventions, saying that the problems were known as far back as February 2018, yet some promised interventions via a new “surge” plan and injection of funds to redress the poor performance were never actually implemented.
“Some of the ‘surge’ funds were committed for hiring an additional 8,000 community health-care workers, yet we now know that they were never hired and are only now being recruited,” said Lotti Rutter from Health Gap.
“Additionally, the plan included a promise to hire 12 000 clinical and clinical support staff, including doctors and nurses. Yet more than a year later, fewer than 3 000 of these new staff have actually been hired. To improve impact, it is crucial that Pepfar uses this money to rapidly implement the agreed plan including, most critically, increasing human resource capacity at the front line of HIV service delivery in SA.”