24 July 2009

Africa's Aids success

Africa has had "extraordinary success" in the fight against HIV/Aids, but the access to universal care expected by 2010 will be delayed due to a lack of funds.


Africa has had "extraordinary success" in the fight against HIV/Aids, but the access to universal care expected by 2010 will be delayed due to a lack of funds, according to the director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"We won't achieve universal access in Africa by 2010 but other than that we have enjoyed extraordinary success," the Fund's executive director Michel Kazatchkine told AFP during a three-day visit to Ethiopia.

The industrialised countries of the G8 made a commitment in 2005 to help Africa attain universal access to antiretroviral drugs by 2010.

But according to the Global Fund, only 35% of Africans suffering from the virus currently have access to the drugs, whereas Africa has the highest number of people infected.

By next year, it could reach 75%, Kazatchkine said, stressing the progress of some countries such as Botswana. Botswana is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic in Africa with more than 24% of the 15 to 49 age group infected but where patient access to treatment is now 100%.

2.3 million receives treatment
The Fund has dispensed more than 16 billion dollars (R124 billion) in aid since its creation by the G8 in 2002. More than 2.3 million people around the world are receiving treatment thanks to its resources.

But the Fund is alarmed by the fall in finances: 10 billion dollars (R77 billion) had been budgeted for operations for 2008-2010, but it is 3 billion dollars (R23 billion) short because of a growing demand for care.

"The fact is that the crisis has come at a bad time because we are currently seeing an expansion of all health programmes in the world," said Kazatchkine, stressing the need for an increase in funds even as the economic crisis has tended to reduce them.

"I hope the money promised for 2008-2010 arrives ... but I am worried that the donors might not be able to increase their funding, whereas we are going to have to keep treating patients in the coming period." – (Sapa, July 2009)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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