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HEALTH-SOUTH AFRICA: Five Years to Children Born Free of HIV

Marshall Patsanza

JOHANNESBURG, Mar 8 2010 (IPS) - A world where all children are born free of HIV infection is possible in only five years if donors continue to fund global efforts to combat the virus.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria says in addition TB transmission will be halved by 2015 and malaria will be eliminated as a public health problem by 2020 if it increases funding for its programmes.

The fund’s results report was launched in Johannesburg on Mar. 8 by Professor Michel Kazatchkine, the organisation’s executive director. “A world where no children are born with HIV is truly possible by 2015,” Kazatchkine said.

Programmes supported by the Global Fund in developing countries saved at least 3,600 lives per day in 2009 and an estimated 4.9 million since its creation in 2002.

By the end of 2009 programmes financed by the fund provided antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 2.5 million people and 790,000 HIV-positive pregnant women were on treatment to prevent mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV in developing countries.

The report said that continued and substantial increases in long-term financial commitments by donors will be essential in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

“The Global Fund is about getting results. This report clearly shows the world’s investments are making a difference,” said Michel Sidibe, the executive director of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

South Africa is one of the countries that have stepped up a rapid expansion of HIV prevention, care and treatment services according to the report. South Africa receives 271.3 million dollars from the fund.

According to South African Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the fund has provided treatment for 400,000 of the 920,000 people who are on ART in the country. “This funding has gone a long way in helping South Africa’s progress in achieving the MDGs on time,” Motsoaledi added.

“It is our hope as the South African government that donors use this report to see the work the Global Fund is doing in developing countries in assisting in the progress of the MDGs,” Motsoaledi said.

The Global Fund has invested in 41 countries and territories in east, southern, west and central Africa with a focus on where there is the greatest need.

According to the report Namibia, Rwanda and Zambia are on track to meet the targets they set for universal access to ART.

In Malawi 37,000 HIV-positive pregnant mothers had received MTCT by the end of 2009 and within eight months of ART introduction overall adult mortality declined by 10 percent.

All these are indicators of good progress, especially on the African continent, said Sidibe.

Sidebe also highlighted the importance of the fund’s replenishment. He said that “a withdrawal of funding on Global Fund–supported projects would be a universal nightmare, as it will mean removing the people who are already on HIV treatment of the medication due to lack of funding.”

But in order for this progress to be continuous international donors have to play their part, explained Kazatchkine.

The fund requires 20 billion dollars over the next three years.

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