Fight Against HIV/AIDS Top Global Challenge, International Panel of Economists Says
The fight against HIV/AIDS is the most important issue facing the world, followed by efforts to combat hunger, promote free trade and eradicate malaria, according to an international panel of economists who met in Denmark last week, Reuters reports (Thomsen, Reuters, 5/29). The week-long Copenhagen Consensus conference, organized by the Environmental Assessment Institute, featured an eight-person panel of economists assembled by "controversial" Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, the Australian reports. Conference attendees, which included other academics, used a cost-benefit analysis to create a list of global priorities for spending on international aid efforts (Macfarlane, Australian, 5/31). The panelists considered 10 global challenges, including climate change, diseases, hunger, migration, sanitation, corruption, trade barriers, education, conflicts and financial stability (Reuters, 5/29). The experts concluded that programs to fight HIV/AIDS could create "extraordinarily high benefits" and prevent almost 30 million new HIV infections by 2010 (Australian, 5/31). They said in a statement, "Although costs are considerable, they are tiny in relation to what can be gained" (Reuters, 5/29).
$27 Billion for HIV/AIDS
In reaching its conclusion, the panel agreed with a paper presented by health economist Anne Mills of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the paper, she said that spending $60 billion to promote condom use and distribute antiretroviral drugs -- particularly in sub-Saharan Africa -- would save $3 trillion in health care costs and human productivity (Friess, Newsweek, 6/7). Asked to allocate about $50 billion in hypothetical funding to solve some of the world's most important challenges, the panelists unanimously recommended spending $27 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, $12 billion to fight malnutrition and $13 billion to fight malaria. The panel also recommended facilitating free trade, which would have "very low costs," according to Lomborg. Douglass North, a Nobel Prize-winner who participated on the panel, said that the goal of the conference was to present possible solutions to problems, "not to tell (lawmakers) what to do with the list" (Olsen, Associated Press, 5/29).