Tuesday, 06 December 2011 07:57

An Appeal for Africa to Own, Scale up and Sustain the HIV Response

 

As the economic crisis continues to reduce global HIV/AIDS funding-especially among African countries-leaders from the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) called on African governments to step up and fill the funding gap.


In the wake of the announcement of the Global Fund's lack of funds, it is now more important than ever for African countries to move toward a self-sustainable HIV/AIDS funding strategy. In the conference's first plenary session, speakers emphasized the need to develop alternative mechanisms of funding, most important of which will begin with African governments.

"The Global Fund announcement is a wake-up call," according to Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, Dr. Meskerem Grunitzky Bekele. "Donors have not made a commitment and African leaders have not stepped up with the promised 15 percent of the budget. Let's review our priorities."

Dr. Bekele accused African governments of not taking ownership of HIV/AIDS and thus failing to fulfill the promise made in Abuja in 2010 to set aside 15 percent of their GDP for health care and services.

In Africa, an average of 85 percent of HIV/AIDS funding currently comes from donors abroad, while 15 percent is from domestic budgets. The promise made in Abudja to earmark 15 percent of each African nation's GDP has only been met by 6 countries in Africa (Rwanda, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Zambia, and Malawi).

"Finance from the international community has peaked," says Dr. Peter Piot, HIV/AIDS expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "In 2010, donor funding dropped 10% due to fewer donations from European partners."

As donor funding decreases, people living with HIV and AIDS in Africa can expect restricted access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). In addition, new infections continue to outnumber ART treatment by a rate of 2 to 1. There are currently an estimated 6 million people on ART around the world.

Over the next twenty years, the global cost of AIDS will be between 19 and 35 billion USD, according to the Director of National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), John Idoko. The current annual budget is approximately 15 billion USD.

Idoko suggests that middle-income countries such as Thailand, China, India and Brazil should be first to move towards self-sustaining models, while low-income countries such as Mozambique and Zambia are still in need of international funding and should be placed as higher priorities.

In order for both groups of countries to tackle the drastic decrease in HIV/AIDS funding, innovative financing will be necessary, according toIdoko. Targeted tax breaks, voluntary solidarity contributions and health insurance are just some examples of how African countries can close the gap and provide more ART coverage.

"A total of 97% of HIV treatment is produced in India. We want to explore how Africa can produce their own treatment," says Dr. Bekele. "We need to transfer capacity and competence to Africans."

Over the last ten years, the use of ART has led to massive decline in mortality among people infected with HIV, saving at least 2.5 million, according to Dr. Peter Piot.

Since 1997, new HIV/AIDS infections have dropped by 26 percent, while ART coverage has increased 20 percent. The achievements have culminated in the "virtual elimination" of mother to child infection, according to Dr. Bekele.

Senegalese researcher and academic, Mafissatou Leye, was also honored during the plenary session for her abstract on virological future and resistance to antiretroviral drugs after 12 to 24 months. The award was presented by the Nambia's First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba.

Source: 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa

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