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Zimbabwe to Appeal Rejection of AIDS Funds - 2004-07-26

Zimbabwe's government says it is going to appeal the decision by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to deny Harare financial aid in the fight against the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

The Global Fund has rejected Zimbabwe's application for $516 million to support the country's fledgling anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) program on political grounds.

An official of a U.N. agency that is part of the Global Fund told VOA on condition of anonymity the government has the right to appeal the decision. An appeal is being launched, the official said, but declined to comment on the reason Zimbabwe's application was rejected.

The official said the payment of some $14 million given to the Zimbabwe government last year is being held up pending negotiations on how it must be disbursed.

The executive director of the Global Fund, Richard Feacham told Inter Press Services during the recent International AIDS conference in Bangkok that the politics of a nation plays a role when determining that country's application, and it played a role in denying the funds to Zimbabwe.

With one in every four people aged between 15 and 49 HIV positive, Zimbabwe has one of the highest infection rates in the world. The head of the AIDS and Tuberculosis Unit in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Owen Mugurungi, says Zimbabwe's anti-retroviral program has the capacity to reach only 10,000 people.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, quoted by the independent weekly The Standard, said the rejection of the AIDS funds is the result of a campaign by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for international sanctions against the current government.

AIDS activist Lynde Francis, however, said the Fund has very stringent conditions for the disbursement of its money and Zimbabwe's disbursement mechanism is suspect.