CAPE TOWN — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Wednesday signed an agreement detailing how South Africa will take over HIV/AIDS programmes that have until now been funded by the US.
It is an important development in the relationship between the two countries, signalling US confidence in South Africa’s capacity to manage its HIV epidemic, which is among the world’s worst.
It is the first time the US is stepping back from projects supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), established by former US president George Bush to help fight the disease in some of the countries that have been hardest hit.
"It marks a new chapter in our (countries’) shared fight against HIV," said Ms Clinton at a signing ceremony at a public clinic in Delft, on the Cape Flats.
"We are very impressed and very grateful for what we have seen these past three years … our collaboration has been vast and effective," she said, noting that millions of South Africans had been tested for HIV and put on treatment.
South Africa had also made great strides in combating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, she said.
Dr Motsoaledi said Pepfar had played an important part in South Africa’s fight against HIV and would continue to do so, despite lower funding levels. It had contributed to the country’s ability to test 20-million people for HIV in the past two years, and helped reduce the rate of transmission of HIV from mother to child from 8% in 2008 to 2.7% in 2011, he said.
"The AIDS-free generation that we all dream about is supported by the US," he said.
South Africa has to date received $3.2bn from Pepfar, the largest investment one country has made in another to fight a single disease.
The bilateral Partnership Framework Implementation Plan signed on Wednesday provides a road map detailing how South Africa will take over Pepfar-funded programmes as the US scales back its financial support. By 2017, its annual HIV/AIDS funding to South Africa will fall to half its current level of $483.7m.
The Treasury has previously said it is committed to filling the funding gap to ensure the government meets its target of treating 3.6-million HIV patients by 2016.
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