“Over D1 Billion Grant Negotiated to Fight HIV, AIDS, Tuberculosis” – Finance Minister

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By Kebba AF Touray

The Finance Minister, Seedy Keita, has disclosed in his budget speech that US$23,415,791 approximately over one billion, four hundred and twenty-six million Dalasi (D1,426, 000, 000.00) grant has been successfully negotiated to continue the fight against HIV/ AIDS and tuberculosis.

This grant is expected to help boost the country’s health system as The Gambia Government continues to receive support from the Global Fund, to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

“The Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of Global Fund, the National AIDS Secretariat, the Ministries of Finance, Health and other partners, have successfully negotiated a grant in the amount of US$23,415,791 to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and strengthening the country’s health system,” he said, adding that the implementation of the grant will begin on the 1st of January 2024 and will run to December 2026, as a continuation of the 2020-2023 funding cycle.

He lamented that in The Gambia, HIV and AIDS continue to be a public health problem with a prevalence of 1.5% among the general population. That currently, prevention program strategies are reinforced using information gathered and appropriate programs designed to ensure the continuum of care for people affected with the ultimate objective of reducing HIV transmission among the community, and the suppression of the viral loads and patients.

Additionally, he said the Global Fund has committed funds to support the provision of a CT scan as part of strengthening the country’s health system for US$2.4 million.

“As part of the Global Fund’s support, The Gambia has been awarded US$7,859,024 to cover unfunded demand in the following strategic priority areas: TB mitigation, surveillance and data, oxygen and respiratory care, laboratory systems and diagnostic networks, and community health works for implementation in 2024,” he said.

Minister Keita said the malaria program of the Ministry of Health has received recommendation for grant-making following the submission of the ‘Grant Cycle 7’ proposal, to continue the implementation of the malaria prevention and control strategies of the country, and a grant amounting to US$ 17,551,376.00 was allocated by the Global Fund for implementation, from July 2024 to 30th June 2027.

“The Ministry of Health is committed to providing accessible, affordable and responsive healthcare services, focusing on primary healthcare, efficient service delivery, a well-trained healthcare workforce, and robust health infrastructure,” he said.

The policy direction, he narrated, serves as the first line of defense against outbreaks, and promotes health and reduces inequalities. He said before the pandemic, Western Regions 1 and 2 had non-functional incinerators, and this prompted actions such as procuring environmentally friendly waste treatment machines, containerised dual-chamber incinerators, and refrigerated waste collection trucks, to improve healthcare waste management.

Minister Keita further said that infrastructure projects include 38 new health facilities and an enhanced healthcare capacity for effective response to health challenges and emergencies. He said postgraduate medical training programme at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH), will reduce the cost of training for medical professionals. He further informed lawmakers that the country’s commitment to Primary Health Care (PHC), has led to improved health especially in maternal and child health and communicable disease treatment.

“The Ministry also advances control and prevention of HIV and TB, with increasing accessibility to services. In collaboration with partners, the Ministry enhances health emergency preparedness, engages in risk communication, and implements early warning systems,” he told the Assembly.

He explained that in 2024, the Ministry’s focus is to enhance healthcare services, improve infrastructure, procure equipment, and strengthen the healthcare workforce, all in line with the goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage.