Medecins Sans Frontieres warned this week, again, that declining international donor funds could reverse the dramatic gains made in AIDS treatment, particularly across Africa.
Launching the report ‘Punishing success? Early signs of a retreat from commitment to HIV/AIDS care and treatment’, Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer said: “We think we are at a very dangerous turning point.”
The director of MSF’s campaign to provide essential medicines, he said: “The donors are getting cold feet about commitment to longterm, chronic disease.”
If the funding of antiretroviral treatment is reversed, lives will be lost.
The total funding for HIV and AIDS programmes will be R4.4 billion in 2009/2010, the Treasury announced this week.
HIV Clinicians Society president, Professor Francois Venter, told me: “I am very encouraged by the allocation of resources. The national government has clearly signaled that it is serious about AIDS.
He said: “We now need the provincial administrations to start taking their responsibilities concerning antiretrovirals far more seriously – far too few people are getting life saving drugs, outside of the Western Cape.”
Mark Heywood, director of the AIDS Law Project and deputy chairperson of the SA National AIDS Council, said: “The government has indicated a commitment to funding the ARV treatment programme.
“The R900 million stopgap to meet the treatment shortfall is very positive. This does not resolve the bigger problem of how we will sustain (funding) going forward to make sure all the needs are met.”
The Treasury allocated an extra R900 million for the fiscal year to cover the shortfall in treatment funding.
South Africa now has an estimated 650 000 to 800 000 people on antiretroviral drugs, and by March next year about 900 000 South Africans will be on treatment.
NO AIDS conference in South Africa would be complete without a protest, an imperative that started with the huge demonstrations at the International AIDS conference in Durban 2000. Activists are the conscience of a conference, reminding delegates how far from their goals – like universal treatment – the world falls.
Today activist treatment groups Medecins Sans Frontieres, ACT-UP Paris and the Treatment Action Camp joined forces at IAS 2009, marching through the conference centre with placards demanding an end to drug stock outs and cheaper second line antiretroviral drugs.
MSF and TAC also demonstrated against the antiretroviral shortages that are harming patients and public health, before the conference even opened on Sunday night.