Working for access to quality public healthcare in South Africa since 1998
6 April 2018

Reckless calls for suspension of HIV money threatens AIDS response

Johannesburg, 6 April 2018 – The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) distances itself from the memorandum of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Civil Society Forum (CSF) on 5 April 2018 with regard to HIV/AIDS funding in the country. Calls to suspend and redirect AIDS financing without proper public evidence, reflection and planning could destabilise and reverse the gains made in the HIV response to date. We consider these calls to be grossly irresponsible since it puts the provision of services to our people at risk.

Many people rely on treatment and other services provided and/or funded by the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria. As a network of people living with HIV and TB, we cannot allow our lives and those of our friends and community members to be put at risk by a suspension or disruption of any of these services.  

Interventions lead by the government with the support of major donors such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR have achieved a great deal in recent years and is set to continue making an important and lives-saving contribution to our struggle. But the health system on which the HIV and TB response is built is dysfunctional in many areas and future scale up and progress are very much under threat. TAC highlighted this dysfunction in our November 2017 survey into the state of 254 clinics across the country, and again in the dire state of TB infection control found in our March 2018 audit of 207 facilities. Ensuring 7.1 million people can get on and importantly stay on HIV treatment and drastically reducing the number of new HIV infections to less than 100 000 per year by 2020 will require money for health to be invested in the most impactful and strategic HIV, TB and health system strengthening interventions. It is critical that these investment decisions are guided by sober assessments of the available evidence. The wrong decisions can literally cost lives.

As such, TAC would be in favour of a rigorous and independent study being conducted to evaluate the performance and impact of those organisations currently delivering front line services for people living with HIV and TB in the country. It should go without saying that all such organisations must be held to the highest level of accountability. We will however not be drawn into criticising any current such organisations in the absence of compelling public evidence of wrong-doing, mismanagement or ineffectiveness.

Given the ongoing governance crisis at SANAC, it would be completely counter intuitive to entrust the SANAC Trust to address governance related issues at the Global Fund level – as suggested by the SANAC CSF. Important questions about transparency, conflicts of interest, and the standing of civil society representatives at SANAC have been raised by TAC to the former Deputy President and the CEO of SANAC. These questions and governance concerns have not been satisfactorily addressed. The proposed shift of power to the SANAC Trust together with the proposed direct funding to certain types of civil society organisations, will dramatically weaken accountability mechanisms and could potentially open the door to the looting of funds meant for HIV and TB. While it is right that community based organisations require more funding, this cannot be achieved at the expense of the required checks and balances and without proper consideration of whether the organisations in question actually improve the lives of the people.

For SANAC to successfully fulfil its important role in South Africa’s response to TB and HIV it must be governed transparently and to the highest standards of good and accountable governance. TAC remains committed to advocating for such a clean and well-governed SANAC.

 For more information contact:

Anele Yawa | General Secretary (Spokesperson) | 064 850 6521

Lotti Rutter| Media liaison | lotti.rutter@tac.org.za | 072 225 9675

Note: TAC continues to have many questions regarding the legitimacy of the SANAC CSF in representing civil society in South Africa. We abstained in the vote where the current CSF leadership was elected due to concerns about the voting process and various concerns about SANAC governance that had not been satisfactorily addressed at the time of the vote, nor now. The vote proceeded without any sector audits. This lack of transparency means we do not know if ‘representatives’ in the CSF are accountable to any constituencies. Despite reaching out to the former Deputy President in his role as the SANAC Chairperson, our concerns have not been addressed. TAC will continue to reach out to the new Deputy President, the SANAC CEO, the Chair of the Trust and the SANAC Coordinating Committee to answer and address our concerns. TAC is not party to the current memorandum, nor to any letters sent by the SANAC CSF over the last two years.

It should also be noted that many organisations that play a part in the national HIV and TB response are not members of SANAC.