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Underfunding hits HIV, Aids response

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The country’s HIV and Aids national response faces major challenges as only a paltry $15 million will be raised through the Aids levy against a 2010 budget of $195 million. Last year, revenue collection from the Aids levy stood at $5,1 million.
Recent figures released by the National Aids Council (Nac) show that only $3,3 million was raised in the first quarter of this year.
Addressing journalists Nac communications officer, Orirando Manwere, said harnessing resources on the domestic front had been a challenge since the adoption of the multiple currency system.
“Income from Aids levy in 2009 stood at $5,1 million while $3,3 million was raised in the first quarter of 2010. $15 million is projected by year-end against a budget of $195 million.
“The base from which domestic resources are being harnessed has dwindled. We therefore have to rely on funds from the Global Fund and the Expanded Support Programme to plug the gap,” he said.
Only employees earning more than $175 a month contribute towards the Aids levy. As a result most civil service employees are not contributing. The number of people who need anti-retroviral therapy (ARVs) in the country has shot up from 340 000 to 571 000 after the World Health Organisation (WHO) revised the CD4 count benchmark upwards from 200 to 350. Of the 340 000 people who need ARVs only 227 000 were accessing them.
Manwere said funds from the 3% Aids levy have started trickling in, but there was need to ensure the informal sector also contributed.
Fifty percent of the Aids levy is going directly to ARVs as directed by the government in 2007.
Nac has put forward a proposal to have Aids levy collected through Value Added Tax so all citizens could contribute.
At least 70 centres provide ARVs throughout the country. However, despite the government ARV roll-out programme, demand continues to outweigh anti-retroviral drug supply. Consequently many people are left without treatment.
Only a few individuals can afford to purchase ARVs from private pharmacies while the rest rely on public institutions.
The private sector in the country
is estimated to be catering for at least 10 000 people on ARVs.

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