AIDS Advocates Fearful Tsunami Relief Aid Will Draw Funding Away From AIDS-Related Efforts, Globe and Mail Reports
The international aid pledged to help nations and individuals affected by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami soon might equal the amount the United Nations received for all humanitarian aid in 2004, and some HIV/AIDS advocates worry that such an "outpouring of generosity" could end up drawing funds away from AIDS-related efforts, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports. Donors worldwide have pledged more than $5 billion in tsunami relief, compared with $3.6 billion spent by Western governments to fight HIV/AIDS last year. This discrepancy has left HIV/AIDS advocates and employees of international aid agencies wondering why other problems, particularly the HIV/AIDS pandemic, have "failed to strike the same chord" among donors, according to the Globe and Mail. Mercy Otim, a Kenyan HIV/AIDS advocate and fundraiser who is part of the Pan-African Treatment Access Movement, said that although international donors often deny her requests for funding by saying that there is not enough money, the international response to the tsunami disaster "has proved the money exists -- it's there. ... They can get hands on it quickly when they want to." She added, "This just confirms that people don't really know the magnitude of HIV/AIDS. ... It's a good thing that people can respond to the tsunami disaster and offer assistance, but the HIV problem is much, much worse -- our economy is destroyed, the people who are sick are the ones who should be working. And the funds are just not there to help people."
Long-Term Funding Efforts
Oxfam Canada spokesperson Mark Fried said, "[E]mergencies are always different -- they get a lot of publicity in a short space of time, and we get donations from people who are not regular donors, which is good. The challenge is how to channel this into long-term work required for future emergencies." Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said the tsunami is an opportunity for a "breakthrough" in development spending if the crisis "could be extended to other realities," according to the Globe and Mail. "[L]et's understand you can't deal with the world, lurching crisis to crisis -- that we don't deny the power and force of the tsunami, but for heaven's sake, (there are) even worse things happening (in) other places and don't abandon them," Lewis said. However, the challenge of finding private donations for HIV/AIDS has been "frustrating" in part because of the stigma attached to the disease, Medicines Sans Frontieres Canada Executive Director David Morley said. "[T]here is a moral judgment that people still make about HIV and AIDS, but there is no moral judgment about being hit by a wave," Morley said, adding, "I feel a slight undercurrent -- AIDS is connected with sex, and sex is bad. But this is just a wave." Lewis also "expressed frustration" over the issue of debt relief for countries most affected by HIV/AIDS, according to the Globe and Mail. "They're falling all over themselves with moratorium or cancellation for Southeast Asia, but for sub-Saharan Africa, where it is needed more than anywhere else in the world, they can't bring themselves to do it -- that part of it is ugly," Lewis said (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 1/11).