Trump to maintain HIV funding, including for SA

By: Peter Fabricius                                           Published on: 19 March 2017

Source: Fin24

Though US President Donald Trump plans to slash US spending on diplomacy and development aid by 28%, he intends to maintain current funding levels for the vital Pepfar programme which pumps billions of dollars into fighting HIV/AIDS around the world, including South Africa.

Through Pepfar – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief – the US has already spent almost $5 billion in South Africa, which has included helping to provide anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to about three million people.

Worldwide, Pepfar was providing life-supporting ARVs to more than 9.5 million men, women and children in about 80 countries in September 2015, according to the US government.

Trump’s budget blueprint for the next financial year, which he sent to Congress this week, said the US would provide “sufficient resources to maintain current commitments and all current patient levels on HIV/IDS treatment” under Pepfar.  It would also maintain funding for malaria programmes.”

Health programmes are among the few development initiatives which survive unscathed in Trump’s budget as it also “meets US commitments to the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria by providing 33 percent of projects contributions from all donors, consistent with the limit currently in law.”

And it would also “provide sufficient resources to fulfil the $1 billion pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, helping to support Gavi to vaccinate hundreds of millions of children in low-resource countries and save millions of lives.”

Other development programmes slashed

But the budget would decimate many other development programmes, including terminating all funding to global efforts to reduce or adapt to global warning and reducing funding to international development banks, like the World Bank, by about $650 million.

Even moderate Republicans have vowed to scupper the budget in Congress.

This week Cindy Harvey, spokesperson for the US embassy in Pretoria said: “We can confirm that the White House yesterday released a FY18 (financial year 2018)  blueprint budget that provides ‘sufficient resources to maintain current commitments and all current patient levels on HIV/AIDS treatment under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),’ as well funding for U.S. commitments to fight Malaria and Tuberculosis.

“Although it is still quite early in the deliberation process, this reflects a commitment by the United States to continue its support for this important global health programme.”

Security assistance to Israel stays

Another important survivor in Trump’s State Department budget is the long-standing annual US $3,1 billion security assistance to Israel.

One of the big losers would be UN peacekeeping, as Trump intends to substantially reduce American funding of UN and affiliated agencies, including cutting its share of UN peacekeeping costs from just over 28,5% to no more than 25%.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that US cuts to the UN budget would make the world less secure.

Trump’s blueprint says he intends to refocus economic and development assistance    “to countries of greatest strategic importance to the US”.

The US would also continue to provide “significant funding of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, disaster and refugee program funding.”

The White House is asking Congress to approve a basic $26,5 billion budget for the State Department and USAID, $10,1 billion less than in the 2017 budget.

It also requests $12 billion in funding as overseas contingency operations for extraordinary costs, primarily in war areas such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. This brings the total to $37,6 billion.

Source: Fin24