Additional $8B Needed To Fight HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries Over Next Three Years, UNAIDS Says
An additional $8.2 billion from donors will be needed over the next three years to fight HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries, UNAIDS announced on Wednesday at a meeting in London with representatives from the governments of France, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Wall Street Journal reports (Naik, Wall Street Journal, 3/10). U.K. Department for International Development Secretary Hilary Benn; French Minister for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie Xavier Darcos; U.S. Ambassador and head of the State Department's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias; and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot spoke at the meeting, titled "Making the Money Work" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/9). Although $6.1 billion was spent in 2004 to fight and prevent HIV/AIDS in developing countries, UNAIDS said that total pledges for 2005 through 2007 are $8.2 billion short of the $14.1 billion needed, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 3/10).
However, some AIDS advocates said that UNAIDS' current estimate of funding needed to fight HIV/AIDS from 2005 to 2007 is $6 billion -- or 30% -- less than its previous estimate, according to a Health GAP release. UNAIDS' Report of the Global AIDS Epidemic released in advance of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2004 estimated that $19.9 billion in funding would be needed to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries by 2007. According to the release, UNAIDS reduced its estimate at Wednesday's meeting "without any technical substantiation." Some AIDS advocates said they believe that the estimate was lowered "in response to pressure" by donor countries and that some donor countries might be planning to "downsiz[e]" their contributions based on the lowered estimate, according to the release. "UNAIDS should not expect anyone, government or civil society, to agree to technically unsound, unjustified numbers that are vastly different from preceding estimates," Asia Russell of Health GAP said (Health GAP release, 3/9). Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said, "It's simply unheard of for an agency like UNAIDS, an advocate of greater resources to stop AIDS, to suddenly say less is needed after all, even as the crisis is escalating." He added, "It's painful to have to question UNAIDS leadership. But, regretfully, we feel that an independent investigation is needed into the methodology, assumptions and overall process of developing the new estimates" (GAA release, 3/9).
In addition to gaining enough funding to fight the disease in developing countries, spending all of the money contributed will be a "challenging task" because many resource-poor nations do not have the infrastructure to absorb donations and face "severe shortages" of health personnel, the Journal reports. Governments, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and independent health groups need to better coordinate to avoid "overlapping approaches, conflicting ideologies and varying paperwork requirements that overwhelm the health ministries of developing countries," according to the Journal. "Lack of good coordination claims lives," Piot said, adding, "Before there was money, it was only a theoretical issue" (Wall Street Journal, 3/10). Piot added, "In order to get ahead of the epidemic, the international community must work together to scale up the AIDS response. This means maximizing donor coordination, mobilizing new resources and ensuring that the available funds for AIDS are spent effectively on the ground" (U.N. News Centre, 3/9).