Blair offers aid for HIV inquiry

January 15, 1999

South African students and researchers, especially those working in Aids related fields, will benefit from greater aid and the partnership for development co-operation announced by British prime minister Tony Blair during his visit here last week.

Mr Blair's visit was marred by protests against the British strikes against Iraq and the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902.

More welcome was the prospect of greater trade with Britain, a potential Pounds 4 billion injection of UK private investment, and news that the Department for International Development would commit Pounds 90 million over three years to South Africa's efforts to reduce poverty and transform society - a 40 per cent rise on the past three years.

The cooperation agreement will help South Africa overcome constraints to growth and improve services, including education and health, by funding local and international "know-how" and providing technical assistance.

Julian Lambert, senior health and population adviser for DFID in Pretoria, said the partnership would support applied health research, especially on making primary healthcare more effective. About Pounds 10 million is to be spent on containing HIV and Aids.

Almost 10 per cent of existing and new cases are in South Africa alone. It is estimated that by 2006 Aids will cause as many deaths in South Africa as all other causes put together.

Women between 15 and 25 are the most seriously affected. Without effective action, there could be up to 2 million Aids orphans in South Africa.

A significant amount of DFID-sponsored activity will feed into South African higher education, for example through Pounds 1.5 million in loans to disadvantaged students and through help for health research by local universities.

Kevin Lillis, senior education adviser for the DFID in Pretoria, said the partnership was the culmination of long bilateral negotiations, in consultation with the private sector and civil stakeholders.

The DFID is prioritising basic education and aid to provincial governments.

Dr Lillis said that while universities were not specifically targetted, the partnership sought "to get higher education to engage with the provinces in policy formulation and service delivery".

The DFID gives bursaries to poor students in science, technology, engineering, medicine and commerce to study at historically advantaged institutions.

The DFID has spent Pounds 7 million on bursaries since 1994, and last year provided 1,000 bursaries through the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa.

A further Pounds 1.5 million has been set aside this financial year mostly for students. Thereafter, it might switch to disadvantaged institutions and possibly student teachers might get priority support.

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