AIDS: Where Goes the Money?

JUST how much money are the recipients of AIDS funds putting into programmes that have a real impact on communities affected by the disease without hip- hopping around the world or engaging in endless AIDS workshops? It appears that unless there is serious public account of where exactly AIDS dollars are going, we are in for a long ride with the epidemic.

In order to make real progress in the response to AIDS, the whole concept of what money means to the response has to be rethought. Because where the money is going in many cases is doing little tochange the course of the epidemic. Except make some people rich and fat and making a glitz out of the disease.

The AIDS community in many parts of Africa is very dispassionate; there is no real anger, and the business of the day consists of filling in donor proposals and donor reports pasted with pictures ofpeople supposedly living with HIV and AIDS. The AIDS response in Africa is so air-conditioned that its ineffective: it lacks vigour for real change. Read more.

So while there is an ongoing clamour by AIDS activists for increased funding – and rightfully so – it is an undeniable fact that significant AIDS resources have only gone to fatten people’s pockets in Africa, creating a class of the noveau riche. AIDS tourism, defined as multiple trips to world-class cities to attend conferences and workshops and discuss the disease is literally like a virus run amok in many AIDS circles. It is prevalent not only in Africa but in many cities around the world.Of course, trips and workshops come with hotels and the beloved per diem, and we are only left to wonder where all the money is going. Too much of the money for AIDS flies in wads at the grasstops while the grassroots suffer.

The Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria has been forced to withdraw its funding in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe for reasons related to mismanagement of the funds.

For many of the people in HIV and AIDS work, its a chance to cash in while speaking highly about the things that need to be done. AIDS has become almost academic, so to speak. A considerable chunk of AIDS funding today is going to groups of people that have formed organizations that are there to to pocket in on the disease. Many of these organizations continue to engage in endless research on communities without actually directing material and financial resources where they are needest most: the community level.

The problem with HIV and AIDS has become that there is too much theorizing and with it has risen a class of so-called AIDS professionals that know everything about the disease yet don’t do jack to make a real impact to the women and girls persevering everyday with meager resources to take care of their sick.

In a way, AIDS has become a syndrome to slickness.

To state it bluntly, there has been a mushroom of self-appointed AIDS institutions that are like vampires sucking on AIDS funding. It appears the question that is missing is exactly how is AIDS money being used. Once that question is sufficiently answered, maybe we will embark on a new pathway to better use of money which the world has availed to combat this problem.

Chief K Masimba Biriwasha
(The author, born in Zimbabwe, is a children's writer, poet, playwright, journalist, social activitist and publisher. He has extensively written on health, worked till recently with UNESCO in France and is presently in South Africa. His first published book, The Dream Of Stones, was awarded the Zimbabwe National Award for Outstanding Children's Book for 2004)

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