Warning against cuts in Aids funding

Now is not the time to cut funding for HIV/Aids. This was the message that came out of a press conference on Tuesday, jointly held by Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and the World Aids Campaign.

These organisations, together with Section27 and the Children’s Rights Centre, among others, will be holding a march in Sandton on June 17. They plan to march from George Lea Park to the United States consulate, where they will hand over a memorandum calling on the US to reverse cuts on funding for HIV treatment.

Vuyiseka Dubula, secretary general of the TAC, explained that while they are celebrating the milestones of one million people in South Africa receiving treatment for HIV/Aids, and five million people receiving treatment around the world, there are still 10-million in need of treatment, “and that’s why we are targeting this march for now, during the World Cup, when the world is focused on South Africa”, she said.

The organisations are demanding that US President Barack Obama reverses the funding cuts by the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), and that the Global Fund on Aids, TB and Malaria (GFATM) be replenished. They are also asking President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi to bring up the issue of healthcare in Africa at this year’s global forums on the Millennium Development Goals.

Dubula explained that they are marching specifically on the US consulate to ask the US to set the example for the rest of the world for HIV/Aids funding.

“The recession is being used as a scapegoat,” she said. “They [donors] are shifting the responsibility for treatment to the individual countries, but they made a lifelong commitment. They started [the treatment], they need to sustain it until the health departments of those countries can support it themselves.”

Linda Mafu, the African regional coordinator for the World Aids Campaign, warned that a decrease in treatment funding would endanger millions of lives.

“Antiretroviral treatment can prevent new infections and prolong the lives of those living with HIV. We are calling on donors to meet their commitments …” she claimed. “If they won’t give money for treatment, they must give money for funerals, because people are going to die.”

“If we stop funding now, it will be a huge setback,” said Sharon Ekambaram, head of the programmes unit for MSF. “We will lose all the gains we have made.”

Dubula added that while fund cuts will negatively affect treatment in South Africa, the situation here will not be as bad as in other countries in Africa, some of which “solely depend on outside funding. For [them] it will be a crisis.”

The march starts at 11am.

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