Minister calls for sustained allocations for health services

Friday, April 3, 2009

Durban - While acknowledging the global economic crisis, Health Minister Barbara Hogan has called donors to sustain allocations of funding for health services.

Speaking at the closing of the 4th Southern African AIDS Conference on Friday, Minister Hogan said amid the global financial crisis, she was concerned that health services should not be ignored and that global and domestic funding allocations must be sustained.

"As a community of health promoters, we must ensure that health services are not cut but sustained, for every job that is cut, for every sector that buckles, for every health cent cut, there will be consequences for public health," Minister Hogan said.

She stressed the importance of innovative financing mechanisms in order to scale up services.

"Never before do we need donor's donations than now," the minister said, adding that anti retroviral treatment (ART) is expensive and they had no other options.

She urged institutions to be careful and plan properly. "We must budget, model and plan carefully."

The minister also voiced her concerns on the number of children that were not tested for HIV, with many not having caregivers who can access immediate treatment for them.

In addressing this, the minister said the Department of Health had a conference this week with expert pediatricians to discuss means of scaling up pediatric care.

"Research suggests that sometimes mothers are too ill to seek health care for their children, so children are not given the necessary treatment; however we need to mobilise around this issue.

"The issue of pediatric treatment is also linked to our efforts to scale up our Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme," she said.

According to a research, although PMTCT exists at almost every health facility across the country, only 70 percent of pregnant women take an HIV test.

The minister further said among those who test positive, many do not receive prophylactic ARVs and many do not get a CD4 count test.

Regarding progress on the National Strategic Plan (NSP), Minister Hogan said the government was committed to reaching the targets by 2011.

"I'm looking forward to the completion of the mid term review so that we can better understand any gaps in implementation, I also look forward to all sectors that signed onto the NSP taking more responsibility for a number of joint areas of intervention in the plan," she said.

On prevention, she said, the department would ensure that tools such as condoms are available for everyone to practice safer sex.

The four day conference, which started on Tuesday was themed "Scaling up for Success", which was aimed at escalating the combined knowledge and experiences from the Southern African region to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS.