Global AIDS money available from April

The newly constituted board of the $1,9-billion Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria yesterday (Tues 29) called for funding proposals from “country partnerships” affected by the three epidemics, saying money would be disbursed from April.

“Proposals will be funded rapidly, with minimum red tape, but with enough safeguards to make sure funds are used responsibly and effectively,” said the Fund in a statement released in Geneva after its first board meeting.  

This means South Africa needs to set up the “country co-ordinating mechanism” required by the Fund as soon as possible. This mechanism, envisaged as a multi-sectoral partnership of all stakeholders, would then need to determine spending priorities for the three diseases and submit a funding proposal to the fund.

However, tension between AIDS organisation and the government over anti-retroviral treatment for people with HIV/AIDS is likely to stand in the way of agreement and obstruct South Africa’s early access to the Fund.  

The Treatment Action Campaign has already warned that, unless the government develops a treatment plan for people with HIV/AIDS, this country will not get access to the fund’s dollars.

The fund stated yesterday that it would “support plans in countries that have demonstrated the highest level political commitment to eradicating these diseases”.

However, the South African government has been condemned worldwide for its tardy approach to dealing with HIV/AIDS. Should the country co-ordinating mechanism become bogged down in controversy, South Africa is likely to see the AIDS millions pass by.

Meanwhile, the US government was criticised this week for failing to take the fund seriously. This follows the US government’s $200-million donation to the fund on Monday, bringing that country’s contribution to the fund to $400-million.

“The president is missing a tremendous opportunity to help stop global AIDS,” said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, a Washington-based activist group in a statement.

Bush last week announced an extra $50 billion in US military spending for pay increases, more precision weapons and a missile defence system. US military spending in 2002 already amounts to approximately $315 billion.

The Fund’s second board meeting will take place towards the end of April in New York at which proposals will be prioritised.

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