Health economists have responded cautiously to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’€™s “generous” allocations towards interventions targeting HIV/AIDS.

Manuel announced a R300-million supplementary allocation for targeted HIV/AIDS interventions in 2002/03 and R313,5-million in 2003/04.

This was over and above the funding being provided for AIDS prevention programmes both on the budget of the national Department of Health and the special allocation for the integrated prevention strategy.

A conditional grant was announced last year for an integrated programme on HIV/AIDS that would get R125 million in 2001/2002.

Professor Di McIntyre, Director of the University of Cape Town’€™s Health Economics Unit said it was not a lot of money, but “the encouraging thing is that they are ear-marking some money and adopting an integrated approach.”

She said the budget speech contained a lot of “nice language about HIV/AIDS” and the need to respond to AIDS orphans, but she expressed concern about where the funding will come from for new HIV/AIDS initiatives, including new programmes to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.

“It will have to come from existing health care funding. There is no separate allocation for these new projects.”

Dr Helen Schneider, Director of the Centre for Health Policy at the University of the Wiwatersrand, welcomed the allocations for HIV/AIDS, but questioned whether it was adequate considering the high prevalence rate.

“Perhaps it is enough for an intervention such as homebased care, but what about the other interventions?

“We would like to know what interventions are being targeted and even more specifically, what geographical areas.”

Debbie Budlender of the Women’€™s Budget Initiative expressed concern that “HIV/AIDS was only mentioned once.”

“This is worrying in the light of the major crisis we are facing,” she said.

Budlender said although an allocation of R300-million for HIV/AIDS sounded like a lot, much more had been allocated for things such as police and courts

“We can only hope that further amounts will be allocated to HIV/AIDS in the mainstream budget,” she said.

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