British Government Announces Support for HIV/AIDS Treatment Programs in Developing World
British Department for International Development Secretary Hilary Benn on Tuesday announced that the U.K. government will now help fund HIV/AIDS treatment programs in the developing world, a departure from earlier government policy which stressed prevention programs and health care infrastructure building, London's Guardian reports. DFID's policy "u-turn" stems from large drug companies "dramatically" lowering antiretroviral drug prices and companies in India and other developing countries manufacturing inexpensive generic antiretrovirals, according to the Guardian (Boseley, Guardian, 11/26). Benn said that DFID spending on HIV/AIDS programs in Africa will rise to $1.7 billion by 2005-2006. Benn this week is scheduled to reveal details of the government's HIV/AIDS funding and call on the international community to "scale up" efforts to combat the disease, according to London's Independent (Laurance, Independent, 11/26). Benn also said that the U.K. government will make HIV/AIDS a "centerpiece" at next year's G8 and European Union meetings, according to the Guardian (Guardian, 11/26).
Benn announced the new policy at the launch of the annual UNAIDS report, which said that a "record" three million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2003, the Independent reports (Independent, 11/26). UNAIDS and the World Health Organization on Tuesday released their annual report on the state of the global AIDS epidemic, which found that five million new HIV cases occurred in the world in 2003. The report, titled "AIDS Epidemic Update 2003," shows that there are 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2003. Approximately 14,000 people were infected with HIV each day in 2003, and more than 95% of new HIV cases occurred among people who live in low- or middle-income countries, according to the report. The report also said that spending on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs throughout the world increased 50% in 2003 to $4.7 billion (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/26). According to the Independent, the British government's spending on global HIV/AIDS programs has increased sevenfold since 1997, making the U.K. the second largest donor to the developing world (Independent, 11/26). Benn said, "We have an opportunity now with the dramatic fall in the price of AIDS drugs," adding, "It is the combination of things that will make a difference. More countries are now looking at how they can use treatment to keep people alive" (Guardian, 11/26).