SPC – “Are Pacific People Important Enough to Invest In?”

161

Rarotonga, Cook Islands – Some Pacific Island countries no longer meet the criteria as they have a low burden of disease and are classified as lower middle or upper middle income countries, thus not they do not qualify for the fund assistance.

This was according to the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Island Community (SPC), Dr Jimmie Rodgers when speaking to the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation’s (PIAF) Media Unit during the recent 43rd Pacific Island Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

[Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Island Community, Dr Jimmie Rodgers]

When asked to comment on new funding mechanisms set by Global Fund and how it will impact HIV programs and projects in the region, Dr Rodgers said many Pacific Island states have now moved out of the low economic grouping, and as a result do not qualify for Global Fund assistance.

Dr Rodgers said there are few countries in the region that have high burden rates and are in the low economic grouping, and will continue to receive assistance under Global Fund.

“International funding mechanisms are time bound. They are also bound related to the burden of the disease. So for Global Fund, the Pacific doesn’t have a high burden of disease. However, the Global Fund support is also targeted, and most of the Global Fund assistance that the Pacific has been benefiting from includes laboratory strengthening, advocacy, and maintaining support for treatment,” said Dr Rodgers.

He said there has been positive progress made within the region in response to HIV and AIDS, and there are risks involved if most projects and programs under the Global Fund come to a closure.

Dr Rodgers said “there are risks but the burden of looking after national populations rests with respective Governments and when Global Fund came onboard with original programs, it was to buy us time to allow Governments to acknowledge and realise that these important challenges for their population,” adding that Pacific Island countries were also given a time frame of between three to five years to slowly mainstream the funding.

He said the important question now for the Pacific is “are our Pacific people important enough for our own Governments in the region to invest to look after them” and not to focus too much on Global Fund.

“It is a debate that says the leadership of a Pacific Island country really needs to ask the question, how important are the health of my people, and what am I prepared to do to invest to make sure that they are safe. Unless there is a mind shift into that kind of thinking, there will never be an acceptance that projects are time bound. There will always be an expectation by some countries money will continue to roll in,” stressed Dr Rodgers.

Dr Rodgers added that funds such as the Global Fund and other aid assistance will not continue to roll in, and over time, the region needs to build in a sustainability mechanism.

He said SPC is now looking in that direction and has been holding policy talks with respective Health Departments in the region to help develop and strengthen their capacity to mainstream critical agendas into their respective health budgets.

“We are aware that Global Fund is going, but we are working with other development partners to bridge the gap,” He said.

Dr Rodgers also took the opportunity to call on leaders in the region to take responsibility and ownership of national issues faced in-country such as HIV and AIDS.