Paidamoyo Chipunza recently in Durban, South Africa
Countries must devise innovative ways of mobilising resources at domestic level to combat HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis amid revelations that 13 out of 14 funding partners have reduced their financial assistance towards Aids due to the world’s competing priorities.
Addressing journalists at a press conference for the official opening of the 21st International Aids Conference here on Monday, UNAIDS executive director Dr Michel Sidibe said the current state of affairs in the HIV sector was scary as there was a high risk of erosion of gains made so far.
“I am scared because I am back again here in South Africa, Durban in difficult times. The world is facing many other competing priorities such as terrorism, migration and so many issues.
“I am seeing for the first time the decline on financing from donors, 13 out of 14 donors have reduced their contributions to the response,” said Dr Sidibe.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, who was leading the Zimbabwean delegation at the conference, said the country has not been spared by the current HIV financing crisis.
He said although the country had the Aids levy, it was still not enough as it accounts for only 25 percent of funding for all HIV programmes, with the remainder being funded by donors.
Dr Parirenyatwa said Zimbabwe would explore other options of raising local resources such as the National Health Insurance Scheme, the community share ownership schemes and the private sector.
“We will continue to woo the partners, but we are also going to emphasise on domestic financing including the issue of community ownership schemes.
“We are also going to push for the private sector, although very small in Zimbabwe, the employees must be catered for in terms of medical cover for HIV,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Dr Sidibe said these characteristics required countries to increase domestic financing towards health in general and HIV, AIDS and TB in particular.
“If we continue with this trend (financial crisis), we will not be able to end AIDS by 2030. We will have a rebound in this epidemic.
“We will have resistance, we will lose our investments and we will have to pay more later,” said Dr Sidibe.
He likened the current scenario to the fight against malaria which he said had been put under control at some stage but is now becoming a huge problem for the world.
Dr Sidibe said there was need to also strengthen health systems to be able to reach out with interventions to where they are needed most.
Speaking at the same occasion, United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon underscored his commitment to promote innovative measures and increase access to medicines, vaccines and diagnosis of HIV and tuberculosis.
He said there was need to finish the fight against HIV by filling all the gaps which keep people from accessing treatment and Aids-related services.
Mr Ban said there was also need to protect and promote the rights of all people living with HIV including key populations.
“We have to expand resources, science and services and, we have to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, gay men, transgender, people who inject the drugs and when we do this, we end stigma and discrimination and save lives,” he said.
South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaposa said while enormous progress had been made in the fight against HIV, more still needed to be done.
He said too many people living with HIV still did not know their status, while some of those who knew their status did not have access to treatment and the rate of new infections was still high.
Therefore, there was need for the Aids 2016 conference to come up with solutions that address these challenges.
“We are optimistic that the deliberations here in Durban will yield commitments from the international community to invest more in research and developments that could lead to opportunities of a vaccine or a cure, we must work harder to achieve this,” he said.
An estimated 18 000 delegates from over 180 countries in the world are attending the five-day international conference, which is running under the theme: Access, Equity, Rights Now.