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Dwindling HIV funding catastrophic


Mercy Kaitano (not her real name), a 28-year-old woman living with HIV, receives anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) from a local clinic in Mabvuku suburb every month. The drugs are supplied through funding from the Global Fund (GF).

Kaitano was introduced onto the ARV treatment regime in 2007 after her husband died of an HIV-related ailment.

“Being on the programme is not easy. Sometimes when you visit the clinic, they will tell you the drugs have run out. If I don’t take the drugs constantly, it means I will become drug resistant. There is need for uninterrupted supply of drugs to patients,” she said.

Kaitano is one of 238 500 patients that will be affected by the withdrawal of GF funding to the country in 2015 if the country fails to secure money from an alternative source.

The Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV and Aids chairperson Sebastian Chinhaire said the withdrawal of funds to fight the pandemic will be catastrophic.

Chinhaire said more than half of patients in the country are taking ARVs made available through donor funding.
“The National Aids Council said it will do something about the withdrawal of funds, but this is going to be a disaster. There is need for advocacy from the government and affected people,” he said.

He said the United States-run Expanded Support Programme (ESP), which was also funding the supply of ARVs zipped up its purse last December.

“ESP rolled up its services in the country and this is going to be a disaster to infected people,” Chinhaire said.

Co-ordinator of the GF in Zimbabwe, Rangarirai Chiteure, however, said the fund had not withdrawn its services yet, but had cancelled proposals for Round 11 for all qualifying countries in 2011 due to lack of money.

“There are no immediate implications on the country since Round 11 implementation was targeted to start in the last quarter of 2013 at the earliest.

“The impact on programme funding will be felt starting in 2013 since it is the year the Round 11 was envisaged to start flowing,” Chiteure said.

He said the overall impact will be felt at the end of phase two in January 2015.

“The government needs to increase its budget allocation towards health to at least achieve the Abuja Declaration of 15% of national budget towards health.

“There is also need for other internal resource mobilisation strategies to augment the National Aids Trust Fund, which is currently making significant contributions to the fight against both TB and HIV and Aids,” Chiteure said.

The Round 8 phase support is expected to be 193 500 and 223 500 patients in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Chiteure said the country was receiving GF support for Round 8 for HIV, TB, malaria and health systems’ strengthening and Round 10 malaria.

“If Zimbabwe does not have access to new funding, the country would still be eligible to apply for ‘continuity of services’ at the Global Fund, in order to get funding for another two years, so that patients currently on drugs stay on treatment,” he said.

Zimbabwe has received $373 million for HIV and Aids, $70 million for tuberculosis, $121 million for malaria and $81,7 million for strengthening the health system.

The current global grants are $179,9 million for phase one 2010-2011 and as at December 2011 $162 million has been availed by GF. Chiteure said the country was now waiting for GF grants under Round 8 phase two of $286,6 million for malaria, TB, health systems strengthening, HIV and Aids and malaria.

He said GF supports 75% of malaria national requirements and 80% for TB national requirements while 35% of patients on ART are supported through GF.

“The GF has made significant contributions to the improvement in health service delivery in Zimbabwe and other benefiting countries. It will be unfortunate if the GF is not able to provide funding to the country after the current funding cycle in December 2012,” he said.

The GF was formed by governments, international institutions and private donors in a move to deliver treatment to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia.

According to UNAIDS, Zimbabwe had at least 1,2 million people living with HIV in 2009.

The prevalent rate is 13,7% for HIV and Aids. Currently the country offers free treatment for malaria and TB patients.

GF spokesperson Marcela Rojo recently said in a statement the Fund will extend its financial support to Zimbabwe for malaria, HIV and Aids to December 2016 to avoid disturbances to the treatment programmes currently underway.

Rojo said extension of funds for programmes would be in the second half of the year.

“However, funding for the first phase has been extended to avoid disruption to programme implementation, which includes patients on treatment,” he said.

A position paper by Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN) said civil society was concerned with the declining resources for HIV and Aids services in Zimbabwe that threatened to undermine gains made in combating the pandemic.

“We recognise the urgent need to mobilise more donor funds while also mobilising more local resources to fill the gap created by the ever dwindling resources for HIV and Aids,” said ZAN.

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