26 March 2018

Tanzania: State Mulls Over New AIDS Levy

Dodoma — PLANS are underway to introduce Aids levy for treatment of the disease whose medical bills is beyond the reach of majority Tanzanians amid declining donor contributions.

Over 1.4 million Tanzanians are HIV positive and the country needs at least 1.2tri/- annually to handle the epidemic where nearly 225 people contract the deadly virus, daily. With the budget soaring, 93 per cent of the money required to respond to the epidemic comes from development partners, with the US government President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief-PEPFAR taking the lion's share, contributing at least 86 per cent of the budget.

The Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled, Ms Jenista Mhagama told the Parliamentary HIV and AIDS Affairs Committee here yesterday the plan will form part of the government new fiscal measures.

It was not identified how much will be imposed and to whom or when the new levy will come to effect but observers suggest the new levy is likely to come along with the fourth health sector HIV and AIDS strategic plan 2018-2023 which starts in July this year.Ms Mhagama said, "We have presented our suggestion before the national committee on levy to review and decide.

We are also waiting for the final decision." The minister admitted that a number of donors had been pulling out or reducing their direct support, pushing the government to introduce the AIDs Trust Fund.

"We officially launched the Fund last December. The fund had also managed to start raising monies and supporting various initiatives," she said, noting that the government plans to allocate at least 3bn/- during the next financial year 2018/19 to finance the Fund. Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) Executive Director Dr Leonard Maboko said donor contribution to HIV and AIDs issues had dropped drastically.

Citing the ending five-year national HIV 2013/14-2017/18 strategy, which required at least 6tri/- or 2.975 billion US dollars, Dr Maboko said until now, the plan is facing a financial gap of 25 per cent, over 600 million US dollars.

"We have received about 74.63 per cent or 1.8 billion US dollars," said Dr Maboko, naming the key donors as Global Fund, US government, Tanzanian government, Private Sector and other development partners, including UNDP, Canada and Japan. He said the government is planning the fourth HIV and AIDs plan 2018-2023 that focuses on halving new prevalence by 75 per cent come 2023.

The plan will accelerate the country towards meeting the national and global targets on HIV and AIDs of three zeros by 2030. In Africa, the Government of Zimbabwe introduced the levy to finance HIV and AIDS activities in 1999.

Revenue from the National HIV/AIDS Levy, which was three per cent of all taxable income, went into the National AIDS Trust Fund under the National AIDS Council management.

The Committee Chairman, Mr Rwegasira Oscar said lawmakers of the parliamentary committee are considering to deliberate the new plan. He said the new 3bn/- proposed by the government to finance the national AIDS Trust Fund was not enough given the demands to address the epidemic in the society

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