JOHANNESBURG Southern African countries, hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, are likely to be most affected over the next three years as funding from one of the world's biggest donors dries up, a coalition of AIDS activists said Monday.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria called off its next funding round after failing to secure the minimum $13 billion needed to fund its programs. The fund said earlier this month it was cutting new grants for countries battling the diseases.
The public-private fund is the single largest donor body for HIV funding and provides more than 70 percent of funds for life-saving antiretroviral drugs in developing nations.
Southern African countries that rely heavily on Global Fund aid, including Swaziland, Malawi and Zimbabwe and Mozambique, are expected to see increasing fatalities and infections as a result of funding shortfalls. Stockpiles of life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) medication are also expected to drop.
"It is a disaster for Zimbabwe as a country," said Faizel Tezera, international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres head in Zimbabwe.
"More than 86,000 people will be left without treatment and about 5,000 children will be affected," Tezera told reporters.
Worldwide an estimated 33 million people are living and infected with HIV, with close to two-thirds of that total found in the sub-Sahara Africa.
AIDS activists said the situation in land-locked Swaziland, where approximately 26 percent of the population of 1.2 million live with HIV, was dire with dwindling stockpiles of ARVs.
Representatives from MSF and South African lobby group Treatment Action Campaign warned of an impending disaster.
"The quality of treatment will be heavily compromised," said Safari Mbewe, spokesman for the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
Malawi, where about 10 percent or 960,000 of the country's population live with the disease that attacks the human immune system, had pinned their hopes on new grants to cope with an estimated 70,000 new infections next year.
"It is catastrophic for our nations, especially women and children," TAC spokeswoman Nokhwezi Haboyi said.
Some South African state facilities are already running short of ARV medication, even though 80 percent of money to fight HIV/AIDS comes from the government.
Patients who used donor funded hospices have recently been referred to public health facilities as many shut down due to loss of funding.