Don't backtrack on Aids, MSF warns Western donors

Cutting funding for HIV/Aids treatment would condemn millions of poor people to death, international medical NGO Médicins sans Frontières said on Thursday, amid signs of Western governments starting to backtrack on their commitments.

Two major funders of Aids treatment in poor countries—the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar)—are considering scaling back or freeze their funding levels, MSF said in Johannesburg.

The Global Fund is considering taking a “gap year” from funding Aids programmes in 2010 while Pepfar plans to freeze funding at the same level for two years—despite previously promising to increase its funding for treatment, according to MSF.

Many African countries rely heavily on either or both of these two sources to fund the treatment programmes that keep millions of their HIV-positive citizens alive.

Freezing or cutting funding to these programmes—after world leaders in 2005 promised to support universal Aids treatment coverage by 2010—“would be an international betrayal,” said Dr Eric Goemaere, MSF medical coordinator in South Africa.

Freezing funding at the same level would mean that new patients could not be enrolled on treatment until someone else died.

Four million HIV-positive people are currently on anti-retroviral therapy worldwide.

More than six million more people are in need of the treatment, according to MSF, which released a report entitled Punishing Success? Early signs of a Retreat from Commitment to HIV/Aids Care and Treatment.

“The HIV/Aids emergency is definitely not over,” warned Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.

Some donor governments are trying to divert resources from HIV/Aids to other diseases that are cheaper to treat, but said Schoen-Angerer: “This cannot be an either/or game. Cutting HIV/Aids funding is not the answer.”—Sapa-dpa


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