Let’s focus on HIV prevention: NAC …as Aids Levy dwindles

By Daniel Chigundu

NATIONAL Aids Council (NAC) finance director Albert Manenji says there is need to put more efforts in HIV/Aids prevention as it is cheaper than treatment.

Zimbabwe has about 1.2 million people living with HIV/Aids and only about 1.029 million are on medication.

A month supply of ARVs for a single person according to NAC is about $7.16 which translated to about US$7 million for the number of people on the medication at the moment.

Addressing online journalists at a workshop, Manenji said the treatment was the biggest expenditure for the institution at a time when revenue collections are spiralling downwards.

“The biggest line of expenditure is to do with treatment. Each time we come up with interventions, let’s not concentrate on treatment but rather on prevention as this will make resource demand to be lesser.

“We are doing well in the national response but we are not doing well on the money side. Each time we come up with new ZINASP we come up with new funding requirements.

“What is clear is that since 2015, the amount we have been collecting is less than the budget requirements. HIV/Aids respond to how the economy is functioning, if it’s not doing well, it also gets affected because it is tax-based,” he said.

Manenji also revealed that NAC was also experiencing difficulties in getting foreign currency to purchase HIV/Aids drugs, adding that while they are getting allocations, they are however below required amounts.

HIV/Aids response in Zimbabwe is hugely funded through development partners who are currently contributing about 85 percent while the National Aids Levy is weighing with a measly 15 percent.

However, this funding ratio has received wide condemnation by various development partners as being unsustainable in the long-run as global funders are slowly shifting attention to climate change and other things.

The Zimbabwean government is currently facing financial challenges owing to lack of foreign direct investment (FDI), low exports and lack of credit lines among others.

This has resulted in treasury failing to uphold the Abuja Protocol on health funding which requires that at least 15 percent of the total national budget must go towards health.

However, the situation is expected to change a bit as the government introduced a Health Levy deducted on air time and is reportedly netting about US$6 million per month.

While Aids Levy has been applauded globally as being one of the best home-grown financing initiatives, it has failed to make great impact owing to massive company closures and retrenchments that have been experienced in the country since the turn of the millennium.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa a few months ago told Parliament that there are only 500 000 people who are still in formal employment while the rest have now been engaged in the informal sector.

However, despite being the biggest employer in the economy, most companies in the informal sector do not pay tax.

And according to the FinScope MSME Zimbabwe Survey 2012, there are about 3.5 million SMEs in Zimbabwe but only 15 percent are registered.

Failure to register SMEs by government means Aids Levy collections will continue to dwindle while demand for HIV/Aids response keep growing and this also means funding to the health sector by the government will also be affected and will remain below the Abuja agreed percentage.

Reduce funding to the health sector will ultimately affect poor people the most as they are the ones who depend on public health institutions for their health care and they will not be able to buy some of the medication such ARVs for themselves.

Poor funding of public health institutions will likely result in people living with HIV/Aids absconding medication which will result in drug resistant Aids and also likely to cause unnecessary deaths.

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