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Providing HIV Treatment in an Uncertain Financial Climate

Interviewee: Peter Navario, CFR Fellow for Global Health
Author: Toni Johnson, Staff Writer, CFR.org
June 25, 2009

South Africa has been coping with one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in  the world. However, a new report shows South Africa's HIV infection rates are leveling off (BBC). CFR Fellow Peter Navario says the report's findings reflect both an increase in the availability of treatment as well as a decrease in the level of new infections. Currently there are about 630,000 South Africans receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS. In early June, President Jacob Zuma announced a plan to more than double the number of people receiving antiretroviral drugs by 2011. Navario says the program would cost about $15 billion dollars in lifetime costs, "a huge sum of money" in light of the country's extreme economic crisis and the possibility of  decreased funding from international donors.  "I don't know where the money is coming from," he says.

Navario notes that the World Health Organization may also recommend that people with HIV/AIDS begin treatment earlier, which would increase lifetime treatment costs in South Africa and elsewhere considerably.  "It is going to be very difficult to treat your way out of this epidemic," he says. "[And] while continuing to emphasize treatment, we need to find ways to really step up prevention efforts." With the economic downturn putting pressure on global health dollars, he says the health community needs to find ways to use existing resources more efficiently. "Cost containment is going to be critical in light of flatlined funds," he says.

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