International AIDS Conference day 5: A quest for new funding sources

United States Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Photo by: Ryan Rayburn / ©IAS

Financing the global response to HIV and AIDS once again took the center stage at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Among key topics debated: The need for new funding sources in the face of the global financial crisis and dwindling donor funds.

Speakers at one of the plenary sessions on Thursday (July 26) backed the implementation of financial transaction taxes – an innovative financing model supported by several nongovernmental organizations and personalities like Bill Gates.

Several panelists lauded an announcement by French President François Hollande that his country will impose a tax on financial transactions starting Aug. 1, of which some 10 percent of revenues will go toward development projects, including AIDS research.

But UNITAID Denis Broun said the use financial transaction taxes also poses challenges. For one, it is not likely to generate sufficient funds if used in countries with a small volume of financial transactions, Broun said. He added that there are various fields, such as climate change, competing for funds from such tax.

Michel Kazatchkine, U.N. special envoy for HIV and AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, meanwhile, championed increased multilateralism as the “right” platform for the global response to the epidemic. The former Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria chief said the use of multilateral channels would decrease transaction costs and better align goals, among other benefits, than bilateral spending. He did recognize that some countries, including the United States, have a different conception of multilateralism.

Here’s a rundown of other happenings on the fifth day of the conference, along with some essential reads:

  • A new public-private partnership to strengthen laboratory and healthcare system s in the developing world was launched. The project, dubbed Labs for Life, is a $20 million collaboration between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and global medical technology firm Becton, Dickinson and Co. It expands on a similar partnership between the three parties that focused on sub-Saharan Africa. The new initiative will cover Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique and India.

  • Medecins Sans Frontieres Access Campaign released a report that lauds slight reductions in the prices of first-line antiretroviral drugs. But greater reductions are needed in order to further scale up access to and use for of these drugs. The report also notes that prices of newer medicines for longer-term treatment programs remain “prohibitively expensive.” It says additional suppliers and manufacturers of these drugs are needed to ensure the health community does not rely exclusively on one supplier. One of the reports recommendations: more flexible patent laws that will allow generic competition.

  • U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby announced $5 million for Together for Girls, a public-private partnership that aims to address sexual and other forms of violence against girls and boys. The money will be drawn from PEPFAR.

  • Republican Sen. Dick Lugar has decided to lift his hold on the transfer of a $250 million budget from PEPFAR to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, The Hill reports. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was encouraged by people he met and spoke with at the AIDS conference. They were able to convince him that the money is “a worthy investment.”

  • An article from The Economist makes the case why funding HIV and AIDS research could save donors a fortune in later years. Not finding a cure, according to the article, means “someone” has to continue paying for the cost of treatment. Also, existing drugs only suppress the virus, not eliminate it.

  • India’s success story on HIV response is due to four factors, according to Prakash Tyagi of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. These are: increasing contributions to its National AIDS Control Program, “converging” diverse health programs, reforming policies and having a strong political will.

  • The United States should take a community-based approach in the prevention and treatment of people with HIV and AIDS, director of HIV and AIDS treatment at the District of Columbia’s Department of Health Gregory Pappas said in a PBS News segment, according to Bread for the World. This, International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Director and fellow panelist Wafaa El-Sadr said, could make “a big difference” in U.S. communities. Close to 1.2 million people in the country are living with HIV, according to CDC.

  • A number of events at the conference have promoted a contentious approach to prevent the spread of HIV: use of condoms. One event, sponsored by The Pleasure Project, focused on the “pleasurable” aspect of safe sex. Another event by Catholics for Choice, meanwhile, tackled the use of condoms in a “religious and ethical perspective.” There were also sessions promoting dialogue with young people on the topic. These emphasis on condom use, however, has Edward Green of Johns Hopkins University concerned. Studies show links between greater use of condoms and high HIV-infection rates, he said as quoted by LifeSiteNews.com.

Jenny Lei Ravelo contributed reporting.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.