Aid Not Enough to Fight AIDS

Posted on 01 December 2011 by admin

By Miriam Gathigah

Demanding Right to Health at Busan

Demanding Right to Health at Busan. Credit: Miriam Gathigah

BUSAN, Dec 01, 2011 (IPS) – As the curtain comes down on the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in this South Korean city, thursday, billions of people  will be marking yet another World AIDS Day –  this one themed ‘Getting to Zero,’ for zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new infections and zero stigma and discrimination.

But, in Africa, what may be needed is zero tolerance to corruption so that funds needed to fight HIV/AIDS and create awareness does not get siphoned away.

Creating awareness has been important in places like Kenya where those afflicted were considered extremely promiscuous.  When they died, they were buried in a polythene bag.

No one would drink from a cup that a person known to be infected with HIV had touched.

Over the years, Kenyans have become more aware of HIV/AIDS but that has not reduced the stigma attached to the disease. Neither has it significantly reduced risky sexual behaviour. Some 1.4 million Kenyans are currently infected with HIV.

Statistics by UNAIDS, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS prevention and cure, show that an estimated 22.5 million people were living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. Slightly over half of them are women. Children have not been spared; they account for 2.3 million of this figure.

Since years of research do not seem to have brought scientists any closer to discovering a cure for HIV/AIDS, the condition claims at least one million lives every year in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

If millions of people in Africa infected with HIV are still alive it is because of donor funding that makes it possible for them to access life-sustaining drugs.

“There’s need for more funding to provide treatment,” Mary Naliaka, a nurse in Kenya, told IPS on an earlier occasion.

But more funding is perhaps not what African countries need. Widespread corruption has made it difficult for African countries to make any notable dent in HIV prevalence.

Programmes that popularise prevention of HIV/AIDS by creating more awareness of the condition, establishing HIV programmes in health facilities and providing free condoms are all affected by  diversion of funds.

“People are extremely afraid of HIV but they make choices which don’t reflect an understanding of the devastating effect that this disease has had on mankind,” Ann Kariuki, counsellor at an HIV/AIDS voluntary testing centre in Kenya, told IPS.

“In Africa, which continues to bear the highest burden of the disease, risky sexual behaviour remains rampant,” she said.

When the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was established in January 2002 as a public-private partnership, the aim was to provide financial support for global responses to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria.

For many African countries this was an opportunity to provide treatment for ailing people who at that time lived for an average of about six years

“In poor countries, treatment for 70 percent of HIV patients is financed by the Global Fund.

But evaluation of how the Global Fund is spent in Africa has revealed gross misappropriation of grants, denying many HIV-positive people in need of anti-retroviral drugs an opportunity to live healthy and normal lives.

As of February 2011 out of 145 poor countries that were recipient of this grant, the Global Fund had uncovered misuse of funds in 11 countries, totalling 44.2 million dollars.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that an estimated 63 percent of  misused funds were identified in four countries – Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania, and Zambia. These countries have very high HIV prevalence rates.

According to Tiaji Salaam-Blyther, a specialist in global health, in line with its policy of zero corruption, “the Global Fund is reported to be seeking compensation of the funds and has already recovered 4.5 million dollars and submitted evidence in support of criminal investigations in Mali, Mauritania, and Zambia.”

At least 20 arrests have been made in these countries as the Global Fund gets to the bottom of who bear the responsibility of misusing funds meant for people with HIV, TB and Malaria for personal gains.

These countries have also had their grants suspended. Others whose funds have been suspended or frozen include Chad, Uganda and Djibouti.

In order to create transparency and accountability, the Global Fund released a statement earlier this year stating that it had established strict measures “to reinforce its financial safeguards and increase its capacity to prevent and detect fraud and misuse in its grants, many of which are already underway.”

According to the statement, these measures include “expanding the mandate of firms that monitor expenditure in countries in order to enhance fraud prevention and detection.”

END

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