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Zimbabweans Discouraged By Global Fund Rejection Of Applications

This week's rejection of two Zimbabwean grant proposals by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria caused frustration among many Zimbabweans who saw the decision as a setback in country's fight against the diseases.

The Global Fund rejections concerned applications totaling some US$74 million for funds to combat tuberculosis and malaria. The country did not submit an application for AIDS funds in the fund's seventh round. But countering tuberculosis and malaria, even more deadly to AIDS sufferers, is critical in lowering the AIDS death rate.

The rejection was all the more exasperating for Zimbabweans because it came on the heels of news that Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence rate declined further to 15.6% this year from 18% last year and more than 25% just a few years ago.

The prevalence rate indicates the share of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 which is believed to have become infected with the AIDS-causing virus.

Activists says more support than ever is needed to keep the prevalence rate on a downward path – but anti-AIDS funding allocated to Zimbabwe by the Global Fund has been slow to move through the pipeline and be allocated to projects.

The Global Fund Web site says a total of some $85 million was approved for the country's efforts against AIDS, TB and malaria in its first and fifth rounds, but so far just $35 million of that has been disbursed to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and other providers including an association of church-run hospitals.

Some US$47.5 million was allocated for AIDS programs, but of that only $16.5 million has been disbursed. Government and other sources said the Global Fund and Harare disagreed over what exchange rate to use in converting the U.S. dollar-denominated grants into Zimbabwean dollars: though the central bank recently increased the official rate to Z$30,000 to the dollar, the parallel market rate is Z$1 million per dollar.

For perspective on the significance of the Global Fund's decision and other developments, VOA turned to international coordinator Regis Mtutu of the Treatment Action Campaign based in Cape Town, South Africa, and Lindiwe Chaza-Jangira, national director of the Zimbabwe AIDS Network.

Chaza-Jangira, a member of Zimbabwe's Country Coordinating Mechanism, the body that submits Global Fund applications, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the country did not submit an application for AIDS funding in the latest round because of a large remaining balance of undisbursed funds.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...