Malawi: Health Activists Fear Impact of HIV/AIDS Funding Cut

In Malawi, advocates are concerned about the rejection of the nation's application for nearly $600 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Malawi's proposal for 2011-16 focused on scaling up mother-to-child HIV prevention and male circumcision programs. The country planned to ensure lifelong antiretroviral treatment for all HIV-positive pregnant women, to increase its ARV coverage from 287,000 patients to 537,000, and to circumcise nearly 1 million men to help prevent female-to-male HIV transmission.

"We are yet to receive the reasons as to why the proposal has been turned down by the world body," Edith Mkawa, executive secretary of Malawi's Global Fund Coordinating Committee, told local media on Dec. 28.

"We can't keep relying on donor funding," said Martha Kwataine, executive director of Malawi Health Equity Network. "About 90 percent of HIV activities in Malawi are donor-funded." "Now how are we going to implement the new guidelines?" she asked, referring to the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations on earlier HIV treatment.

The setback will affect Malawi's adherence to WHO's guidelines, acknowledged Amanda Manjolo, executive director of the National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi. "Since the main focus of the proposal was on the procurement of the ARVs, this definitely means that there will be ARV shortages in the near future,"

"Although it is a sad development, the rejection will not have immediate effects because currently we have enough resources to carry us up to 2012," said Mary Shawa, the cabinet member responsible for nutrition and HIV/AIDS programs. "We will continue the WHO guidelines. We have enough funding with the money we received from other donors, including the World Bank and [UK Department for International Aid]."