Official says HIV/AIDS programmes must be sustainable

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- Programmes to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic should be sustainable in order to reduce dependence on donors and the vulnerability of cou n tries to any kind of political manipulation or pressure.
This was the position taken by Matilda Moyo, a Zimbabwean representative of the Southern African Treatment Access Movement (SANTAMO), Saturday at Mozambique's N a tional Civil Society Conference on HIV/AIDS.
As an example, Moyo cited her own country (Zimbabwe) where the politics followed by the regime of President Robert Mugabe had prevented the flow of internationa l financial assistance to fight against AIDS.
Zimbabwe is now in economic meltdown with the highest inflation rate in the worl d (over 150,000 per cent a year).
She said the Zimbabwean government had set up a National AIDS Council which in t urn had created the National AIDS Trust fund "with the mission of managing all t h e funds to combat the epidemic.
Currently, 50 per cent of its budget is used to purchase anti-retroviral drugs".
In the search for sustainability, the government had imposed a special HIV/AIDS tax, charged at a rate of three per cent on all personal income.
Moyo aid that another way of guaranteeing funds for the fight against AIDS would be the effective implementation of the 2001 Abuja Declaration.
In that declaration, African countries recognised the impact of HIV/AIDS on thei r economies, and pledged to channel 15 per cent of their national budgets to fin a nce health programmes, and particularly the national responses to HIV/AIDS.
However, this target is a long way from being reached, which Moyo blamed on a la ck of political will.
"There's no political will and that's why civil society should intervene to forc e governments to respect the Abuja Declaration", she said.
Moyo also believed that the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) could be used t o put pressure on governments.
However, the APRM is a voluntary mechanism, and several repressive governments, including that of Zimbabwe, have not yet signed up to it.
Other voices were raised at Saturday's sessions demanding greater participation by civil society in drawing up policies to fight the epidemic in Mozambique.
"We want to be involved in writing the programmes against AIDS," stressed a dele gate from the northern province of Nampula.
AIDS has not only created a need for medical care in areas where health systems are already weak and outdated - but it is also taking a heavy toll on health wor k ers themselves.
In Mozambique, Lesotho and Malawi, health professionals are now dying of AIDS in large numbers.
Abigail David, representing the United Nations Joint Programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), called for an urgent strengthening of national health systems.

16 june 2008 11:08:00

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