SA Aids funding 'a disgrace'

2009-09-19 16:04

London - South Africa's failure to fund an Aids treatment programme is a "disgrace" and the country risks falling apart unless it tackles the Aids crisis, campaigner and singer Annie Lennox says.

South Africa has the world's largest Aids epidemic with at least 5.7 million people infected with HIV and Aids killing an estimated 1 000 people a day.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said this week the government's HIV programme had a shortfall of around R1bn and that South Africa would not meet a target of providing life-prolonging drugs to 80% of HIV/Aids sufferers by 2011.

"This is a disgrace, this should not be happening. South Africa has many, many resources," Lennox told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

"It's a very young democracy, but at the same time if they don't address this issue, things are just going to fall apart in my opinion," she said.

'Massive challenge'

South Africa, rich in natural resources, is battling its first recession in 17 years.

The former Eurythmics star has set up a campaign called "Sing" to raise awareness of the Aids crisis in South Africa.

Acknowledging South Africa faced a "massive" challenge, she said: "I think we have to give as much attention to this and full support to really try and make that challenge be met."

If successful, it would offer a blueprint for the rest of the continent, she said.

Drugs shortage

Life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs were not widely enough available, Lennox said.

"Only 40% of the people that actually require treatment are receiving it ... You have in rural areas for example such a broken-down healthcare system where you have two doctors to half a million people," she said.

"People will walk, will crawl, they'll be pushed in wheelbarrows or carry people on their backs to get to the clinic," she said, after giving a talk on the crisis to business leaders and policymakers at a London conference.

South Africa's response under former president Thabo Mbeki was heavily criticised, but President Jacob Zuma's appointment of Motsoaledi - a respected doctor - has been welcomed.

$2m raised for Aids cause

Lennox, who met Motsoaledi a few months ago, said he understood the problems and knew what needed to be done.

Lennox, 54, sold millions of records as part of the Eurythmics duo and went on to a successful solo career.

Her campaign against Aids in South Africa was inspired by a visit to Cape Town in 2003 to perform at a concert to launch Nelson Mandela's HIV-AIDS campaign.

In the last two years, she has raised more than $2 million for the cause.