Absorptive capacity to finance HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa: Where are the bottlenecks?

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This research investigates absorptive capacity in South Africa's public health sector in relation to scaling up financing for HIV/AIDS treatment. The thesis constructs a conceptual framework, which follows the flow of public funding for HIV/AIDS treatment. The study combines a quantitative budget analysis, which looks at expenditure and spending patterns, with qualitative in-depth interviews with key stakeholders exploring causes and consequences, which are the main pillar of the primary research. The study applies the conceptual framework nationally, as well as in the Free State and Western Cape provinces. The contributions of the thesis are two-fold: At the conceptual level, the study defines and constructs an analytical framework of absorptive capacity and related bottlenecks in the context of funding for HIV/AIDS treatment in the public health sector. It identifies five major areas where bottlenecks may arise: financial, human, infrastructural, institutional (within the health system) and structural (outside the health system). At the empirical level, the study assesses and compares absorptive capacity and major bottlenecks encountered nationally and in the Free State and Western Cape provinces in respect of the public sector funding for the HIV/AIDS treatment programme. The results confirm that absorptive capacity is not merely about spending funding. Spending should not compromise other programs or elements of the public health system, and it should be efficient, equitable and sustainable. The findings show that South Africa's absorptive capacity was constrained by several obstacles, such as poor practices and a shortage of human resources, insufficient financial capacity and demanding requirements of conditional funding, inadequate infrastructure, and inadequate national leadership. To overcome these obstacles, the mere injection of even more funding would be an insufficient response. Consequently, the study indicates which other reforms are required, including: further integrating antiretroviral treatment services within the public health structures; further decentralising antiretroviral treatment towards primary health care; task shifting; iii balancing the conditional grant and equitable share; and enhancing coordination between the National and Provincial Departments of Health and with Treasury.

Includes bibliographical references.