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SOUTH AFRICA: Global Fund withdraws support for loveLife

Photo: LoveLife
The campaign is known for its slick and stylish advertisements
Johannesburg, 19 December 2005 (PlusNews) - The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has pulled the plug on financing loveLife, a controversial South African youth-targeted HIV/AIDS campaign. In a statement the Global Fund board said it had found that loveLife "was deemed to not have sufficiently addressed weaknesses in its implementation". Global Fund spokesman Jon Liden said it had become difficult to measure how the prevention campaign was contributing to the reduction of HIV/AIDS among young people. Liden told PlusNews that the board had repeatedly requested loveLife to revise its proposals and address concerns regarding performance, financial and accounting procedures, and the need for an effective governance structure. The campaign is aimed at 12 to 17 year-olds and is characterised by slick and stylish messaging, which many fret are not getting through to the majority of young South Africans. In 2003, loveLife received about US $12 million from the Fund - a third of its operating budget. Questions about the impact of the well-funded campaign have generated considerable debate, and more than two years after it began providing financial support, the Global Fund now wants some answers. "This is a Fund with limited resources ... loveLife is extremely costly - there are programmes that have been very effective, which cost a fraction of what loveLife costs. It would be irresponsible of the Global Fund to spend almost $40 million without seeing results," Liden noted. However, the programme's deputy CEO, Grace Matlhape, stressed that "loveLife is working". She pointed to a 2004 study conducted by the University of Witwatersrand's Reproductive Health Research Unit - a loveLife partner - which revealed that of more than 11,000 young people aged between 15 and 24, those who had participated in a number of loveLife programmes were less likely to be HIV-positive, and were also more likely to report using condoms and be tested for HIV. But the study did not clarify whether the project had caused these differences. While admitting that the scale of the epidemic made it difficult to gauge the impact of the campaign, Matlhape called for greater investment in prevention efforts like LoveLife. "This is a decision that affects all South Africans, and is probably more politically driven than anything else," she noted. Liden countered, "instead of dismissing this as political, this is an opportunity for Lovelife to reflect on why one of the biggest AIDS funders in the world decided not to fund its activities".

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