BURUNDI: HIV/AIDS programmes dealt a severe blow

Photo: Anthony Kaminju/IRIN
Nearly 6,000 people will be short of antiretroviral drugs in 2008
Bujumbura, 12 December 2007 (PlusNews) - Burundi's AIDS programme has been dealt a severe blow after its request for funding from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria was rejected.

Health officials warned that nearly 6,000 people will be short of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in 2008. An estimated 10,000 people were accessing ARVs in December 2007, out of an estimated 50,000 who need the drugs.

Figures from National Council for HIV/AIDS Control (CNLS) indicated that about 14,000 people would have received treatment in 2008, had Burundi's application been successful.

According to Dr Jean Rirangira, technical director of the CNLS, the government was short of US$11 million of the total of $28 million required to fight the pandemic in next year, and there was also a gap of $83 million to cover all the needs of the AIDS strategic plan from 2007 to 2011.

Earlier this month President Pierre Nkurunziza lamented the funding situation: "Donors' failure to help Burundi fight against HIV/AIDS and bring support to patients is a simple genocide they will be held responsible for. We cannot accept that people keep dying for lack of medicines, while in other countries they are getting assistance."

According to Cheryl Toksoz, spokeswoman for the Global Fund, Burundi's proposal in Round 7 had been unsuccessful and the Fund's technical review panel had informed the country coordinating mechanism of their decision.

Burundi submitted a proposal requesting more than $95 million over a five-year period for HIV/AIDS and TB, but the technical review panel found that the application had not adequately addressed the feasibility of implementing the grant.

HIV/AIDS activist Jeanne Gapiya slammed the Fund's decision, and warned that it could jeopardise efforts to curb the spread of the epidemic. "It is a death sentence to people [living with HIV/AIDS], since those in need of ARVS will have no other alternative to prolong their lives; but it is also a blow to prevention, exposing thousands of people to a death threat," she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Although many programmes would suffer from the shortage of funds, the CNLS's Rirangira said the national treatment programme would keep providing ARVs, and priorities like making drugs more widely available to patients would be identified by the end of 2007.

Prevention would still be a priority but the government would have to "narrow our ambitions", as voluntary counselling and testing centres could not be scaled up as planned, and funding for income-generating activities for people affected by AIDS would have to be curtailed.

Gapiya called on civil society and the government to combine their efforts to find a common strategy for tackling the country's epidemic, and said Burundi would only secure HIV/AIDS funding if there was greater political leadership in the national response to the pandemic.

Burundi's HIV prevalence of 3.3 percent is relatively low in comparison to neighbouring countries like Uganda and Tanzania.


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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