Scarce funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment has put a damper on the celebration of World AIDS Day.
It has been weeks since The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides more than 70 percent of the money for anti-retroviral drugs in developing nations, announced its decision to cancel round 11 grants. The timing could not have been any worse — global efforts against AIDS have just begun to see ”optimistic results.”
According to a recent report from the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, AIDS-related deaths have dropped from 1.9 million in 2009 to 1.8 million in 2010. ARV therapy is now available for 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries — a far cry from the 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa who were being treated in 2003. The HPTN trial in May found early treatment decreases the chances of transmission by 96 percent. And the UNAIDS report showed investment in HIV services could lead to “total gains of up to $34 billion by 2020.”
But instead of getting encouraged by the results, donors seem to have taken a relaxed stance against fighting the pandemic.
Former President George Bush said in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that “in lean budget times, the U.S. and the developing world must prioritize. But there can be no higher priority than saving lives. And there is no better way to save lives than to support and expand effective, proven programs such as Pepfar.”
But apart from the funding crisis The Global Fund is facing, financing for The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has dwindled since 2008, as reported in the HealthAffairs Blog. Funding for ARV procurement and treatment services has declined from an average 35 percent to 28 percent of the total PEPFAR budget. The reductions could have paid for the more than half a million people who need access to the life-saving drugs.
What could hurt more are the moves made recently by big donors. On Tuesday (Nov. 29), the United Kingdom slashed $1.7 billion from its aid budget. Funding from the United States is also under threat after the supercommittee failed to land on an agreement that could secure the foreign aid budget from further congressional cuts.
In 2001, 45 heads of state agreed in joining the fight against AIDS. At a U.N. General Assembly, they said, “Yes, we must do something,” and then went on to create The Global Fund, according to Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director in an interview with AlertNet. But just a decade after, where have those commitments gone to?
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