Despite American Congress not reauthorising funding for a further five years – after a political row over abortion derailed the process – the head of the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) has assured South Africa and other recipient countries that it remains committed to the battle against HIV/Aids.
Pepfar was established by former Republican President George W Bush in 2003 to support the countries hardest hit by the HIV/Aids epidemic, including SA, reports BusinessLIVE. It is the biggest foreign donor to this country’s HIV/Aids efforts, providing slightly more than $450m a year.
“I remain hopeful that we will not walk away from our commitment … and that the good work Pepfar has done, thanks to the extensive partnership in the countries we are working in, will speak for itself,” said US global HIV/Aids co-ordinator John Nkengasong on Tuesday.
Pepfar had saved 25m lives and prevented 5.5m children from being born with HIV over the past 20 years, he said.
“This work cannot be stopped at this point. Pepfar is committed to working with countries to make sure we finish this fight, and celebrate the end of HIV/Aids as a public health threat by 2030.”
Pepfar was reauthorised with bipartisan support in 2008, 2013 and 2018, but this year, Congress failed to reauthorise the programme for another five-year term by 30 September, the end of the US Government’s fiscal year.
Pepfar is enshrined in US law, so the programme continues, but the failure to approve another five-year spending plan has created uncertainty for recipient countries like SA, said Dave Clark, CEO of the Aurum Institute, one of Pepfar’s implementing partners in SA.
“Given that SA relies heavily on Pepfar support, if it were not reauthorised in the long run and were tailed off, it would be particularly worrying, especially as we’re seeing the first signs of HIV prevalence declining in SA,” he said, referring to research released this week by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).
The UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) has called on governments to ensure the communities most affected by HIV/Aids are at the forefront of efforts to prevent transmission and ensure treatment reaches those in need.
It has highlighted the work of activists and non-profit organisations in SA, including the Treatment Action Campaign’s long battle to compel the government to provide HIV/Aids treatment and more recent work by Ritshidze, which monitors public health services.
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