US gives SA an initial $40m to fight Aids

South Africa is to get an initial $40-million (R275,86-million) from a sum of $2,4-billion approved by the United States Congress to fight HIV/Aids in 14 countries in the 2004 financial year, it was announced on Tuesday.

“So far we have been able to obligate slightly over $40-million here with groups in South Africa,” US ambassador Cameron Hume told the National Press Club in Pretoria.

The US embassy in Pretoria, which will administer the money, has already identified deserving programmes in consultation with the South African government and non-government bodies.

Some of the money has already started flowing, Hume said.

“We are now at a point where we will be asking ourselves what do we do, working with our South African partners, to ensure that… the aid is actually getting to individual South Africans who need the help,” he said.

“Until we know there are specific children being helped by these programmes or until we know that prevention efforts are getting to South Africans, until we know that people who are sick are getting their medicine, we cannot really say we have made any progress.”

The money forms part of an emergency plan for Aids relief for African and Caribbean countries announced by US President George W Bush in his State of the Union address last year.

The amount allocated by the US Congress for the 2004 financial year is $2,4-billion. An amount of $2,8-billion was allocated for 2005.

Other countries benefiting from the money are Botswana, the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The plan is aimed at preventing seven million new infections, treating two million infected people and caring for 10-million HIV-infected individuals and Aids orphans.

About 55% of the global amount is earmarked for treatment, including drugs, counselling and laboratory tests, 20% for prevention, and the rest for care programmes.

Asked for his opinion on the South African government’s handling of HIV/Aids, Hume underlined how difficult a pandemic this was to deal with.

“No government has been fully successful in dealing with the crisis. We all have to start with a little bit of modesty,” he said.
“This is a big challenge and we need to do it together.”

The South African government has often been criticised over its apparent lack of response to the pandemic. He could not make predictions about future allocations to South Africa, but said funding levels would continue to be adjusted on an ongoing basis.

“I don’t think $40-million is the answer (to combating Aids in South Africa),” he said.

“Getting active with the kind of programmes we are able to fund will help us to find answers. Obviously, money alone or programmes alone aren’t enough, but I think they are a big help.”

The $40-million allocation was “a really good start,” he added.

“Yes, we are going to need more resources. But I think this is a good step forward.”

The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the donation. However, the party criticised Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for not meeting a high-powered US delegation investigating funding opportunities last year.

Spokesperson Mike Waters said the donation received was only 1,67% of the $2,4-billion approved to fight HIV/Aids in 14 countries.

“With over seven-million South Africans infected with HIV/Aids, 1 000 people dying every day, 339,500 dying last year and another 423 700 expected to succumb to the disease in 2004 (if they do not receive treatment) it is quite possible that the US Congress would have allocated a larger percentage of the money to South Africa.

“However, the minister chose to snub visiting delegates, while finding time to peddle her concoction of lemon, olive oil, garlic and beetroot as a cure-all for Aids…” - Sapa

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