Africa: Global crisis hits Aids programmes

May 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Africa | Leave a comment
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By Shalini Ramachandran

As the international financial crisis continues, HIV and Aids organisations are feeling the pinch and facing an international backlash against disease-specific funding, Aids programme directors say.

The backlash has been fuelled by critics of antiretroviral (ARV) treatments, who argue that such Aids funding is a growing cost with no end, according to Linda-Gail Bekker, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.

Critics also say that a broader health approach is necessary as 80 percent of the World Bank’s Aids programmes in Africa have been ineffectual, according to a World Bank report this month.

The World Bank’s recent reassessment of African programmes does not mention HIV and Aids.

In another blow, the US has not allocated enough funds to meet its commitments for the President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief, which has been a major donor for South Africa, according to the Global Aids Alliance.

“I think worldwide there is a feeling that the HIV problem is largely under control,” Bekker said.

She said South Africa was a limbo state, with a GDP too high to get aid, yet in dire need.

“We have to compete with the First World (for funding), and that’s a problem,” said Bekker.

Because of such tight wallets, she said, Aids organisations had to begin showing donors the “bang for their buck”, negotiating in the language of investment returns.

Bekker said the media’s focus on “sexier” epidemics had contributed to donor fatigue toward Aids.

According to, in the first 13 days of the month, the media reported a quarter of a million articles on swine flu, which caused 31 deaths in that time span. Yet tuberculosis caused nearly 63 000 deaths in the same period, yet was referred to in only about 6 500 media articles.

“We are facing media fatigue and funding fatigue,” Bekker said.

Catherine Tomlinson, HIV researcher at the Treatment Action Campaign, said critics had to understand that ARVs could bring long-term relief, medically and monetarily.

“If there isn’t funding for ARV therapy, the burden of disease will be higher.”


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