Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE’s National Aids Trust Fund popularly known as the Aids Levy has been praised by a top UNAIDS official as the best practice for domestic funding of HIV programmes in developing countries.
Speaking in Victoria Falls recently, UNAIDS regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa Professor Sheila Tlou said other African countries should learn from Zimbabwe’s Aids levy initiative. Prof Tlou’s remarks come at a time when developing countries are being encouraged to come up with sustainable homegrown funding models of HIV prgrammes in the wake of waning donor support.
She said her organisation had been sponsoring member countries from the Eastern and Southern region of the continent to visit Zimbabwe to learn on the country’s initiative. Prof Tlou said the global economic situation demanded that developing countries come up with sustainable financing models for their health programmes.
“As regional director, I see the Zimbabwe example as the best practice. I have actually been able to sponsor countries in my region to come to Zimbabwe to learn about the Aids levy so that they will be able to implement it because in the ultimate with the economic environment that we are in, we need more countries to have that sustainable financing,” she said.
Zimbabwe introduced the Aids levy in 1999 which became effective in January 2000 ushering a new dimension to funding of the country’s HIV and Aids programme. The National Aids Council (Nac) collects and administers the Aids levy, which is 3 percent of Pay as You Earn (PAYE) from the formally employed population, and the same percentage from corporate tax.
However, official figures from the latest national census results show that only 11 percent of the national workforce is employed in the formal sector and 84 percent of those above 15 years are employed in the informal sector. Over $200 million in Aids levy has been collected since the country adopted the multi currency regime in 2009.
Collections from the Aids levy have been plummeting over the past three years, amid suggestions that the levy be extended to informal sector to augment the collections. Nac has in the past considered a raft of strategies, including levying night clubs and players in the informal sector in efforts to augment the Aids levy.
Aids levy grew from $5,7 million in 2009, peaked to $38,6 million in 2014 only to drop to $36 million in 2015 before dropping further to $32 million at the end of last year. In 2014 the collection fell short by $3 million after more than 20 000 workers were axed following a Supreme Court ruling in July which triggered massive job cuts.
Nac operations director Raymond Yekeye said the collections seem to have stabilised and this year the council was budgeting to collect $30 million unchanged from last year. He said Nac would now start looking at ways of growing the fund as it sought to strengthen domestic funding of HIV programmes.
“If you look at our collection they have been going down since 2014 but we expect them to stabilise now. The job cuts in 2014 really affected the levy collections. This year our budget is around $30 million which is unchanged from last year. What we should start looking at are strategies of growing the fund. A number of suggestions have been thrown around but we really have to examine them first,” he said.
At least 75 percent of the country’s HIV and Aids budget comes from external sources while internal sources which include the Aids levy account for the remainder. Other developing countries however, rely solely on donor funding for their health programmes.With 13 out of 14 funding partners having reduced their financial commitment to developing countries, calls for self sustained funding models have become louder.