Funding Cuts Threaten Life-Saving HIV Health Care

By Kim Pozniak,

This week, the CRS-led AIDSRelief consortium is handing over its HIV care and treatment programs in Rwanda to the local Ministry of Health. After a six-year partnership, and a carefully planned transition period, the local government will fully own and implement those programs that bring lifesaving treatment, care and counseling to thousands of people living with HIV.

This is the first transition of a program supported by the President’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to a local government entity. But it comes at a time when PEPFAR and other life-saving aid programs are facing the possibility of drastic budget cuts from the U.S. Congress.

“It’s important to remember that starting patients on treatment is a life-long commitment,” explains Leia Isanhart Balima, chief of party for AIDSRelief Rwanda. “In the difficult funding environment that the world is in right now we need to remember that we have made a commitment to these people, and while treatment costs are coming down, there will always be a need for technical assistance to make sure that we’re using the latest advances in medicine and applying that to our programs.

“And we can’t just start these people on treatment and then drop them because of funding challenges.”

Each year, PEPFAR-funded programs like AIDSRelief prevent thousands of infants from being born with HIV and provide millions of people affected by HIV with counseling or treatment. The CRS-led AIDSRelief program illustrates the urgent need to protect poverty-focused international assistance as it builds strong national systems to help lift millions of people out of poverty and illness.

Kim Pozniak is CRS’ communications officer for Africa. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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