U.S., South Africa Sign PEPFAR Partnership Agreement

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Tuesday signed a “partnership agreement that will guide efforts on fighting HIV/AIDS in the African nation,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports (Wessels, 12/15).

“The Partnership Framework under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides for a five-year joint strategic plan of cooperation among the governments of South Africa and the U.S. and other stakeholders,” according to a State Department press release. “The Framework supports the goals of South Africa’s national strategy to fight HIV/AIDS, while also contributing to PEPFAR’s global goals for prevention, care and treatment. The Framework emphasizes sustainability, local expertise, coordination and accountability in the fight against AIDS,” the release adds (12/15).

“The United States contributes around $560 million a year to South Africa under PEPFAR, and [U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric] Goosby said funding levels were expected to remain roughly constant for the country,” Reuters writes (Quinn, 12/14). “In 2010 alone, PEPFAR funds have supported treatment for nearly 920,000 adults and children in South Africa, while more than five million South Africans have been tested for HIV and received HIV counseling with U.S. support,” according to the State Department release (12/15).

“We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/AIDS,” Clinton said during the signing ceremony Tuesday, Foreign Policy’s “Madam Secretary” blog writes. “And what South Africa has done is to make a tremendous commitment by doubling its investment, now covering 60 percent of the total spending. There is so much that’s being done at the grassroots level on prevention, efforts against discrimination, treating people with HIV, and doing so much more to put together a comprehensive strategy,” Clinton said (Aroon, 12/14).

“This partnership under PEPFAR … it’s turning the tide at home,” Nkoana-Mashabane said during the signing ceremony, according to the State Department transcript from the event. “[W]ith your support, we have put 1.1 million people under this care of the HIV and AIDS treatment,” she added (12/14). According to SAPA/Times Live, Nkoana-Mashabane also explained: “We have tested more than five million South Africans. And with Dr. [Aaron] Motsoaledi, our minister of health, in the next less-than-18 months, we’ll have tested about 15 million South Africans who should really take responsibility to take care of themselves, but also take care of their loved ones” (12/15). 

“President Barack Obama has made fighting AIDS a cornerstone of his Global Health Initiative [GHI],” RTTNews writes (12/15). “A key principle of the [GHI] is support for country ownership, and through the Partnership Framework, the United States will support South Africa in building the capacity to sustain its progress on HIV/AIDS for the long term,” according to the State Department release (12/14).

Goosby said of PEPFAR’s work with South Africa, “We have developed a level of trust that is extraordinary,” Reuters reports. He added, “They are revealing needs and vulnerabilities, and their ability to move forward has allowed us to have a heads up on where their areas are that we can help” (12/14). A PEPFAR fact sheet on South Africa is available here (.pdf) (January 2010).

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Tuesday “sa[id] he has brought down the cost of HIV drugs by 53 percent, enabling the government to treat twice as many patients in the next two years,” the Associated Press reports. “Motsoaledi said in a statement Tuesday that the government saved 4.7 billion rand ($689 million) by encouraging potential suppliers to participate in the bidding process, requesting a breakdown of costs from suppliers and monitoring price changes,” according to the news service (12/14).

Goosby Tells Reuters PEPFAR Is Looking Into Viability Of PrEP

Reuters also notes that on Tuesday “Goosby said … PEPFAR … was looking closely at [the viability of using microbicide] gels, which can protect women against [HIV] infection during sex and ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),’ which involves giving AIDS drugs to people in high-risk groups before they are infected” to fight the spread of the virus in hard-hit countries.

“‘We would support PrEP in terms of high risk populations,’ Goosby, … told Reuters, adding that various country approval plans were already under internal consideration,” according to the news service. Goosby continued, “We haven’t worked out the delivery system or the dosing or interval of application. … We are absolutely positioned to engage in it as soon as we know those” (12/14).

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