Fight against Aids hit by $10bn shortfall
A decade-long effort to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan Africa—which has seen new infections drop by a dramatic 25% in some of the worst-hit areas—is under threat because of a massive shortfall of funds.
The fight against HIV has been one of the success stories of the eight Millennium Development Goals, which aim, with MDG 6, to halt and reverse the spread of the disease by 2015. New infections have fallen by more than 25% in 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the region hardest hit by HIV, accounting for 67% of all people living with the virus worldwide, 71% of Aids-related deaths and 91% of all new infections among children.
“The world has made a giant leap towards reaching MDG 6. It is within our grasp,” Michel Sidibé, the head of UN HIV/Aids agency UNAids, said last week. However, he warned that European countries were giving $623-million less this year to HIV/Aids programmes around the world, and there is a shortfall of $10-billion in the funds needed to achieve universal access to HIV treatment, including prevention programmes, setting up healthcare systems and caring for HIV orphans.
“I am scared,” he told Reuters AlertNet. “For the first time, we are seeing a decline in financial commitment from donor nations.”
African countries with the biggest epidemics, such as Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have seen some of the biggest falls in the infection rate, thanks to better use of prevention methods and greater access to life-preserving drugs, according to a UNAids report charting the progress of the globally agreed MDG.
Change at the heart of the epidemic
“For the first time change is happening at the heart of the epidemic,” Sidibé said. However, he added that the $10-billion shortfall in the funding for HIV/Aids in 2009 could put further progress at risk. UNAids said an estimated $25,9-billion was needed for the global response, of which only $15,9-billion is currently available.
The success seen so far in sub-Saharan Africa is extraordinary given the deep pessimism that existed a decade ago over the hold of the disease there. The figures reflect the striking impact of a large, effective and well-funded prevention programme matched with better treatment for those with the disease.
Success in Africa, however, is in danger of being overshadowed by the spread of infection in eastern Europe and central Asia, both of which have rapidly expanding HIV epidemics—the disease is spreading in those regions at a rate of 500 new infections a day.
UNAids said access to treatment for HIV has increased 12-fold in six years, and 5,2-million people now get the drugs they need. But another 10-million who need the drugs do not get them.
“To sustain the gains we are making, further investments in research and development are needed—not only for a small wealthy minority, but also focused to meet the needs of the majority,” Sidibé said.
UNAids recommends governments allocate between 0,5% and 3% of their revenue to combating HIV and Aids, depending on the prevalence of the syndrome in their country. - guardian.co.uk