By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha Biriwasha | DevAge Global Editor At Large
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Ninety per cent of AIDS programmes in Africa are foreign funded, a situation that is highly unsustainable especially in the face of the global economic crisis, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou revealed in an exclusive interview at the inaugural GlobalPOWER Women Africa conference held recently in Harare, Zimbabwe.
“There are individual variations among countries but indeed in a lot of our programmes continent-wide, ninety-percent of the funding comes from external sources, for example, the Global Fund, PEPFAR and other development partners. There is an AIDS dependency on the continent,” she said, adding that Africa needs increased domestic resources targeted towards the AIDS response.
“We need to have domestic resources because if every country can own the epidemic and say that it’s ours – that can do quite a lot.”
She attributed the continent’s AIDS dependency to the history of epidemic which has been largely characterized by foreign funding of AIDS programmes.
“When HIV came, I would say, a lot of donors were willing to pour a lot of money in, and maybe the situation could have continued had the world not experienced the global economic crisis,” she said.
Tlou said that though African governments have long-recognized that they need to dedicate domestic resources to the AIDS response, there was still a lack of political commitment to implement declarations.
“In 2001, African presidents met in Abuja and made a declaration to devote 15 per cent of national budgets to health but it’s happening in a very few countries. If we can have at least every African country saying we’re going to put 15 per cent of their national budgets to health, we would be far much better off,” she said, pointing out that countries such as Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa had committed fifteen percent of their national budgets to the health sector with tangible improvements in the response to AIDS.
“The political commitment needs to be there. Fifteen percent is not a magical bullet but it shows that countries have goodwill to respond to the epidemic whereby donors can say we are helping those who’re helping themselves.”
Tlou added that AIDS programmes in Africa currently exist in silos, far removed from each other, lacking in integration and a holistic approach.
“The real problem is that the AIDS response in Africa is disintegrated. We need to take AIDS out of isolation and make sure that it is integrated into the whole healthcare system,” she said.