Aids patients’ lives in danger after funding out

International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned of dire consequences for HIV/Aids patients in low income countries because of the refusal by the Global Fund to purchase anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs for Zimbabwe next year.

The Global Fund recently turned down the country’s funding request under Round 10 meant to finance the purchase of the life-prolonging drugs.

Zimbabwe has been receiving money from the Global Fund since 2002.

MSF operational director Jerome Oberreit said unless a new round of funding was urgently introduced to allow rejected applications to be resubmitted, HIV-positive people would suffer severe consequences such as debilitating opportunistic infections and ultimately early death.

“With early signs in the press that some proposals will most likely be rejected, MSF is seriously concerned that several low-income countries with high HIV-prevalence, such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, risk being denied funding for HIV and TB in this round. The Global Fund must ensure at next week’s board meeting that the next funding round is launched as soon as possible, so that any countries that are rejected can revise and promptly resubmit their proposals, said Oberreit.

“Today’s funding situation is nothing short of a crisis. If donors rely on the Global Fund to act as the last standing domino piece in the fight against HIV, they need to provide it with the necessary resources to respond according to needs. But in the absence of firm political commitment, the Global Fund will be forced to ration its funding and in turn, Aids prevention and treatment. The promise by world leaders to put more patients on treatment will then be an empty one.”

The Global Fund, set up to scale up the fight against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, is expected to reject several other bids following reports donor pledges to the Global Fund fell short of putting additional patients on treatment due to severe funding constraints.

Approximately 10 million people worldwide in need of ARV treatment are currently unable to access it, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

National Aids Council (Nac) chief executive Tapiwa Magure recently told the local media the refusal of the Global Fund had “come as a shock”.

“This has come as a shock especially to Nac because we are almost at the end of preparing the Zimbabwe National Strategic Plan,” said Magure.

“It means we have to reprioritise and refocus on a few issues because the budget has now been limited. It’s unfortunate that they have not yet given us any reasons because we could have maybe reapplied.”

The Global Fund has said it was only funding the fight against TB with a $50 million grant.

MSF is currently working with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to ensure HIV testing, counselling and medical care within the country’s health structures.

At least 39 000 patients are receiving ARVs in MSF-supported sites throughout the country.

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