Tuesday, September 22, 2020

ACHAP denies donor taps have run dry

The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) has denied it faces an uncertain future amid allegations that donor taps have run dry.

The organisation prides itself as a key partner in enhancing and supporting Botswana’s national HIV/AIDS response through a comprehensive approach across the spectrum of prevention, treatment, care and support.

Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, ACHAP spokesperson Jonathan Moalosi said: “The major funders of ACHAP since the end of Bill and Melinda Gates and Merck Foundations support to the GOB [Government of Botswana] in 2014 has been the Global Fund to Fight TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria and PEPFAR to date. These funds are for the people of Botswana given to ACHAP to assist government to respond better in HIV/AIDS and TB especially at community level to reduce the burden of disease. Therefore, there has not been termination of this funding at all so the information you have is not true,” 

“ACHAP is a strategic partner to GOB and continues to enjoy a diligent and fruitful relationship with all the donors and multi-lateral partners in the quest to improve our people’s health,” he said.

Sources within the sector insist that since Bill and Melinda Gates and Merck Foundations withdrew their donations, the organisation is struggling to stay afloat.

It is understood that the organisation recently approached the Ministry of Health seeking financial assistance.

There are fears that the operations of the organisation have been affected and it is struggling to execute its mandate stoking fears that thousands of HIV positive Batswana’s lives may be on a knife edge.

But Moalosi denied this insisting: “As stated above, ACHAP is fully funded by these donors and the mandate of the organization will not change.”

Sunday Standard can also reveal that government and ACHAP were working on a strategy aimed at ensuring the organisation does not fold.

Replying, Moalosi said: “Given the fact that the allegations of ACHAP having lost partnership with donors is not true. There is no salvage strategy being developed between ACHAP and any partner including the Government.”

On a different matter, it is understood that there were plans to seek the services of ACHAP to conduct contact tracing by the Presidential COVID-19 Task Force and the Ministry of Health, but the figure quoted by the organisation led to a misunderstanding between the Ministry of Health and the Task Force.

Despite sources within the ministry insisting that there was such a planned deal, Moalosi denied its existence.

“ACHAP is not a business nor an income/profit generating entity. The organisation remains a strategic and technical partner to the Government of Botswana and can be assigned to assist the country at any given time when the need arises in line with standing Memoranda of Understanding with various government ministries in place.  In line with this, ACHAP was tasked to support government in response to COVID-19 as was done in the fight against HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Moalosi.

Against this backdrop, he said, ACHAP was directed by its funders being the Global Fund and the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) to assist the Government of Botswana with the already existing HIV/AIDS human expertise resources such as doctors, nurses and community workers.  Also, it provides vehicles, mobile clinics and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to augment testing and contact tracing for COVID-19.

“The Government of Botswana (GoB) received those resources and augmented them with additional funds for more PPE for staff, fuelling of vehicles and accommodation of staff in various Ports of Entry as reimbursement for costs incurred,” said Moalosi.

He added: “Through this support ACHAP was able to directly assist GoB in testing over 71,138 people for COVID-19 of which over 60,801 were tests done at the Commercial Ports of Entry (POE) and about 2,497 were done through contact tracing and community testing. In addition, the organization brought onboard innovative solution utilizing realtime monitoring reporting through dashboards.”

The organisation is a country-led, public public-private development partnership between the Government of Botswana (GoB), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Merck &Co.

Inc./The Merk Company Foundation had been a key partner in the war against the HIV with the Government of Botswana.

ACHAP was established in 2000 to enhance and support Botswana’s national HIV/AIDS response through a comprehensive approach across the spectrum of prevention, treatment, care and support through 2009.  As part of part of the partnership, each foundation contributed 56.5 million USD and Merck in addition was donating its two antiretroviral medicines, Crixivan and Storcrin for use in the national ARV program as needed for the duration of the partnership.

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