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People living with HIV protest against Global Fund support cut

By | January 31st 2012

By Peter Orengo

Hundreds of patients living with HIV and Aids took to the streets of Nairobi to protest at Global Fund financial support cuts.

The protesters marched from the Japanese Embassy where they presented their petition, the European Union, Italian and Spanish embassies and called on them to honour their pledges of fighting Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The protest was meant to concide with the Global Fund’s tenth anniversary.

The procession then moved on to Afya House where they asked the Health minsitries to engage the Global Fund on the programme.

"A Global Fund that is downsizing is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when we were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel with the HIV epidemic," said Nelson Otwoma, the National Coordinator of Nephak, Kenya’s largest network of people with HIV.

He said today, nearly half of the people in need of HIV treatment in Kenya have access to ARVs. The coverage increased by 30 per cent in 2010 alone. Kenya has over 1.5 million adults and 300,000 children living with HIV.

Countries such as Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the US have been told to pay full and outstanding pledges or reverse reductions in contributions, and recipient countries urged to focus on increasing funding for critical diseases such as HIV and TB.

Serious delays

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Two years ago, lack of funding forced serious delays in starting people on HIV treatment.

"I am concerned people living with HIV and TB are told to wait for another two years before they can get the treatment they urgently need, said Dr Peter Mugyeni from Uganda, who accompanied the demonstartors.

"I wouldn’t want a return of the situation we faced in Uganda two years ago, when we couldn’t give people the treatment they needed to stay alive because there wasn’t money to pay for it. It will result in unnecessary deaths," he said.

A change from ad hoc voluntary funding to a more predictable mechanism—such as the financial transaction tax currently being debated in Europe—is needed, with part of funds generated to be dedicated to global health, including the Global Fund.

Ten years ago, there was a landmark decision to support the roll out of HIV, TB and malaria prevention and treatment in countries that couldn’t support programmes on their own.

In several countries, plans to implement treatment strategies that have the biggest impact on the epidemic are at risk because of the funding crisis.

In Kenya, for example, the Government is looking for funds to provide all HIV-positive pregnant women with life-long treatment.

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