HIV/AIDS Spending Projected To Be Half of What Is Needed by 2005, UNAIDS Report Says
Despite recent increases in funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, anticipated spending on the disease will be about half of what is needed by 2005, according to a UNAIDS report released Sunday, the Washington Post reports. The report, titled "Accelerating Action Against AIDS in Africa," says that because some areas in Africa have made "significant strides" against the disease, "the challenge [of fighting AIDS], while daunting, is not insurmountable," according to the Post (Weiss, Washington Post, 9/22). The report was released at the opening of the 13th International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa, which is scheduled to run through Friday in Nairobi, Kenya (Xinhua News Agency, 9/20). While about $950 million was spent on the fight against HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa in 2002, up from $550 million in 2000, that amount was less than half the $2 billion needed for basic prevention and treatment services, according to the report. Those needs are expected to grow to $5 billion by 2005, and another $1 billion will be needed to provide antiretroviral medications, the report said. However, spending by that year is expected to amount to only $3 billion, including anticipated funding increases, according to the report. "There is still too much talking and not enough doing. ... In reality, our actions too often fall short of our loudly pronounced slogans and pledges," Michel Sidibe, director of country and regional support for UNAIDS, wrote in a statement released with the report (Washington Post, 9/22).
The report highlighted prevention and treatment programs that have been successful, including a generic antiretroviral drug program in Senegal, a workplace anti-AIDS program in Cote d'Ivoire and an AIDS awareness campaign in Uganda (Tomlinson, AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/21). The report also noted that the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate in Botswana has decreased and more than 33% of pregnant women in the country have access to short-course antiretroviral treatment; on average, 1% of pregnant women in Africa have access to the treatment. In Nigeria, the Anglican Church's campaign to combat stigma, myths and profiteering associated with HIV/AIDS was deemed "highly effective," Agence France-Presse reports. The report praised Cameroon for using debt-relief funds from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to purchase generic antiretroviral drugs for public clinics, lowering monthly treatment costs to $20 and increasing the number of HIV-positive patients treated from a few hundred to more than 7,000 (Agence France-Presse, 9/21). The report also said that West Africa has the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence in Africa and the situation in East Africa is improving (BBC News, 9/21).
However, none of the 10 nations in Southern Africa, which has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, have shown clear signs that their epidemics are declining, and the latest data from South Africa, where one in five adults has HIV, show that "perceived gains against the epidemic may not be as significant as previously believed," the report states (Agence France-Presse, 9/21). The report also found that fewer than 50% of women ages 15-24 in sub-Saharan Africa know that HIV infection risk can be reduced by using condoms and adolescent girls are three to four times more likely to be HIV-positive than boys (Washington Post, 9/22). "After two hard, painful decades of experience and accumulated knowledge -- much of it gained in Africa -- African governments and the international community are beginning to understand what is required. They now need to apply this experience and knowledge more extensively. There are key gaps in most African national responses that deserve special attention as action against AIDS in Africa is brought to scale," the report said (Agence France-Presse, 9/21). The report is available online.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Stephen Lewis, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said that the slow pace of Western countries in delivering money and programs to help fight AIDS in Africa, as well as the years of debating how to address the epidemic, was "morally unconscionable," the Boston Globe reports. "I'm enraged by the behavior of the rich powers, how much more grievous, by their neglect, they have made the situation in Africa," Lewis said, adding, "That isn't to take Africa off the hook: The behavior of many former African leaders was indefensible. But Africa has moved mountains in the last couple of years, while the Western world remains mired in the foothills." Lewis said that the $1 billion gap in spending on the AIDS pandemic at a time when the West has spent more than $200 billion in the last two years fighting terrorism is a "grotesque obscenity." Lewis asked how the West could spend so much money fighting terrorism but could not find a portion of that amount of money "to prevent children from living in terror?" (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 9/22).