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US HIV/Aids funding hangs in the balance

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Multibillion-rand funding to South Africa from the US government’s flagship HIV/Aids programme hangs in the balance as Washington prepares to usher in a new administration, reports Business Day.

South Africa has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the US President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR) programme, through which successive US administrations have pumped $5bn into the country since 2004, when the pandemic was at its height.

The report quotes US embassy spokesperson Cynthia Harvey as saying: “In 2016, PEPFAR contributed $410m towards combating HIV/Aids and tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa.”

Since 2004, the US has committed more than $5bn through PEPFAR to South African health programmes. And in 2015 the US started the Dreams (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe women) programme in South Africa. The programme is a two-year, $66m commitment that focuses on alleviating the social drivers that contribute to more than 2,000 new infections a week among girls and young women in the country.

South Africa also receives money from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria. And, the report says, Harvey offers a restrained, diplomatic as well as pragmatic response to the question of what will become of these initiatives under the new administration.

“We’ve inherited many initiatives from prior Republican administrations – PEPFAR, and African Growth and Opportunity Act. We expect the next administration will inherit key initiatives from the Democratic Obama administration, too, such as Young African Leaders Initiative and Power Africa.

“So, while we do not yet know what president-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy priorities will be, we feel optimistic that these important initiatives, including PEPFAR, will continue to receive support,” Harvey said.

Department of Health deputy director Yogan Pillay said not all donor funds flowed into state coffers, but that they also help to bankroll local non-governmental organisations. Government spending on HIV/Aid programmes has tripled since 2007-08. It is expected to average R913m over the medium term, according to projections in the national expenditure framework for 2010-16.

Business Day report

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