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South Africa AIDS Activists Appeal to Secretary Clinton


AIDS activists from South Africa are calling on the Obama administration to keep its pledge to boost funding for HIV/AIDS programs.

Next month, the administration outlines its proposed spending for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The activists say early indications are the proposals fall short of what's needed. They say only $100 million has been proposed for PEPFAR and no increase in spending for the Global Fund. VOA has requested a response from PEPFAR officials.

South Africa's largest AIDS activist organization, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), has sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton asking for her support. Mrs. Clinton recently visited South Africa.

One of those signing the letter is Paula Akugizibwe of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa in Cape Town.

"At the moment we are seeing across the region…and across the world that the economic crisis has triggered some cutbacks in allocations to funding for health, and particularly for HIV and TB," she says.

Seeing the effects

"We have already seen budget cuts. And we're seeing moratoriums placed on patients being enrolled into treatment for HIV. And what this basically means is that people don't have access to life saving treatment," she says.

In 2005, at Gleneagles, Scotland, G8 leaders pledged to make universal access to treatment available by 2010.

\At July's summit in L'Aquila, Italy, leaders said, "We will implement further efforts towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, with particular focus on prevention and integration of services for HIV/TB.

"There's also evidence of some decreases in commitment from the global leaders to financing universal access to HIV and TB treatment. So the letter was written to Secretary Clinton to bring these issues to attention," she says.

Turned away

Akugizibwe says some people have been turned away from health clinics because of funding shortages.

"In Uganda, this has been in the media. It's been reported in The Lancet, which is a leading science journal," she says.

She adds, "The responsibility isn't solely on the United States government, but nationalgovernments themselves also have an obligation to finance access to treatment and prevention."

The TAC letter to Secretary Clinton ends by saying," We hope that you will do everything in your power to protect the lives of women and children in South Africa at risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS…by sustaining the assistance of the United States government."

Last year, Congress authorized the spending of up to $48 billion for PEPFAR over five years, with the goal of treating at least three million people and preventing 12 million new infections. The reauthorization came before the global economic crisis.


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