Rough road to an AIDS-free generation

UNAIDS founding director Peter Piot. Photo by: Robert Scoble

Which is more depressing: That 34.2 million people continue to live with HIV or that the HIV epidemic remains $7 billion short in funding?

Two separate reports released ahead of the 2012 International AIDS conference try to paint a picture of the global fight against the disease. The Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS report shows that more people have access to antiretroviral therapy (8.8 million from 6.6 million in 2010), new infections in children have fallen (330,000 from 570,000 in 2003) and that the number of people newly infected with HIV is down 100,000 (2.5 million from 2.6 million in 2010).

While the numbers are encouraging, a closer look shows a much bleaker picture. There are still about 34.2 million people living with the virus, with 75 percent of the 4.9 million young people with HIV coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Close to half of the 2.5 million people newly infected with the virus are women and girls. And the figure representing those with access to ARVs is far from the number who needs it: 14.8 million people.

Donor funding is no cause for celebration either. A report from the Kaiser Foundation showed that in 2011, donor disbursements only reached $7.6 billion — $1.2 billion lower than their $8.8 billion commitment. This is while developing countries have scaled up domestic spending in the fight against the epidemic.

At the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS, countries agreed to increase investments for HIV to between $22 billion and $24 billion by 2015. But at the 2011 rate of nearly $17 billion, the world is still some $7 billion short of the target, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé told the Huffington Post.

The report does not include funding for HIV research in donor countries.

Peter Piot, founding director of UNAIDS, related two scary moments while working on public health in a Devex interview. One is when the world was still learning about HIV and the other was when world leaders failed to agree on a document on AIDS response back in 2001.

Piot admitted that the last one is a “completely different type of scared” — but his fear is not unfounded. A decade on and world leaders continue to debate over a few words in a document.

It is hoped that the coming AIDS conference in Washington, D.C., which is starting to generate a lot of buzz, won’t fall into the same trap.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.