AIDS Authority Waits on Funds

A new, top-level government authority to battle against HIV/AIDS still is waiting for funding, activists said this week.

The National AIDS Authority, approved last month by a government subdecree, missed being included in the government’s 1999 budget, which was ap­proved by the National Assembly prior to Jan 1.

The authority’s deputy chairman, Dr Dy Narong Ridh, said he sent a relatively no-frills budget of $750,000 to the government for consideration, and will meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen next month. But, still, he said he worries whether the authority will get the funding it needs.

Without funding, AIDS policy making in Cambodia could be in limbo for another year.

“If the government wants to do something serious, they must give us the means,” Dr Dy Narong Ridh said Monday.

AIDS Authority officials said donors would not be consulted until after the government makes a decision on the AIDS budget.

The National AIDS Authority is poised to take over AIDS policy and lobbying from the Ministry of Health’s National AIDS Com­mittee, which activists roundly say lacked political clout at the highest levels.

“It didn’t work,” Dy Narong Ridh said, noting that the five-ministry AIDS network simply didn’t respond to the dictates of the Ministry of Health.

The new National AIDS Auth­ority is geared to coordinate policy among 11 ministries and will be accountable to the Council of Ministers. The authority is scheduled to have regular policy meetings with 11 secretaries of state, who are in turn responsible for implementing policy in their respective ministries.

Activists late last year complained that HIV/AIDS lacked representation in the Council of Ministers to lobby for money to fund their cause.

AIDS activists, while saying that the authority appears to be a response to their concerns, said they would reserve judgment until the authority becomes active.

“The structure looks good on paper,” noted Jan de Lind van Wijngaarden, a program officer for UNAIDS.

 

 

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