18 June 2010

'US should give more to Aids'

Thousands of South African protesters marched on the US consulate Thursday to demand the US increase its Aids funding for Africa.

Thousands of South African protesters marched on the US consulate Thursday to demand the US increase its Aids funding for Africa, weeks after US officials said their biggest Aids fund would not substantially rise.

The protesters, clad in green T-shirts emblazoned with the words "HIV-Positive," marched before the consulate in a wealthy northern suburb of Johannesburg to demand that the US government increase its contribution to the Global Fund on Aids, TB and Malaria to $2.8 billion by 2013.

Protest organisers said the lack of a significant increase in the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief - a major funder of Aids programmes around the world - has led clinics to run out of drugs and forced providers to ration treatment.

Marginal budget increase

Officials from the international programme, known as PEPFAR, say this year's budget had increased only marginally, from $6.8 billion in 2010 to nearly $7 billion for 2011.

But in a statement, protesters said more funding was needed.

"Over the years ahead, (lack of funding) will condemn millions of newly infected patients to death and threaten the health of those already on treatment," the statement said.

South Africa, a nation of about 50 million, has an estimated 5.7 million people infected with HIV, more than any other country. It is the largest recipient of PEPFAR funds.

'US remains committed'

US officials in South Africa said in a statement that the country's share has increased, and that "the US remains fully committed to the fight against HIV/Aids, especially in Africa, and remains the largest funder and technical adviser of the global response."
Protesters also called on the European Union, China, Japan and Canada to increase their Aids funding and for African nations to meet a previous commitment to increase health spending to 15% annually.

Mark Heywood, deputy chairman of the South African National Aids Council, lambasted world leaders for cutting back on Aids funding in the wake of the global economic crisis.

"The United States must support Aids treatment and increase Aids funding to developing countries," he said.

Mathabo Labase, 44, said she decided to participate in the protest because she struggles to raise her four orphaned grandchildren after their parents died of Aids.

"People are dying, adults and children," she said. "We want help." - (Sapa, June 2010)


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