In a rare debate, political parties made public their stance on a
range of issues relating to the treatment of AIDS and HIV
prevention. Fears emerged that the current global economic crisis
will have an impact on how South Africa responds to the epidemic
in the future.
Five politicians from the African National Congress, the
Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Independent
Democrats and the Azanian People's Organisation participated in
the debate organized by the Soul City Institute for Health and
Communication and the Sunday Times last week. New kid on the
block, Congress of the People didn't pitch up. The parties
present all promise an increase in health and AIDS spending
should they win the election. The AIDS Law Project's Mark
Heywood, a respondent to the panel, pointed out that the global
economic climate will most likely have a negative impact on how
the government spends on health and HIV.
But the global financial crisis should not be an excuse for lack
of funds for health spending, said the DA's spokesperson on
health, Sandy Kalyan. She cited examples of mismanagement,
maladministration and the non-commitment of funds earmarked for
projects as problem areas.
"In Greytown, in KwaZulu-Natal, a specialized TB unit was opened
in March, this year. It cost R600 000 to build the facility. But
the opening function cost R824 586.
Fourteen-thousand-four-hundred people attended this function. And
the transport cost was R194 000. So, when you talk about not
enough funding, I tend to disagree with you. There is too little
funding for ARVs from Treasury, but we also miss out on
opportunities. Earlier this year, R80 million in funding from the
Global Fund to fight AIDS (TB and Malaria) was put on hold
because government had not set up the structures that were
required to administer it. By November last year, the Department
of Health had spent only 58% of its capital budget and 63% of the
current budget. And then what happens towards the end of the
financial year? We practice fiscal dumping. And that's when
wasteful and non-productive expenditure occurs", said Kalyan.
The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Molefi Sefularo, gave an
assurance on the health budget. He also admitted to government's
wastage, saying money can be put to better use.
"We have tried to protect the health budget. In nominal terms, it
is the only budget that will not be decreasing. We, as the ANC,
are seriously looking at the amount of waste that there is in
government. When we talk about a human rights-based approach to
health, we are saying 'you should not trade-off the right of a
person to antiretroviral treatment for a broadcasting satellite
office of a broadcasting corporation in New York or some
experimental thing like a pebble-bed modular reaction, which is
now costing us billions'. We must seriously provide for health
first. There are a lot of wasteful activities that we see in
government as the ANC that we'd like to reduce", Sefularo said.