G8 Appears To Be on ‘Verge of Backtracking’ on Gleneagles HIV/AIDS Commitments, Financial Times Reports
The Group of Eight industrialized nations appears to be on the "verge of backtracking" on commitments made at its 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, to provide universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010, the Financial Times reports. G8 leaders are meeting this week in Heiligendamm, Germany, for their annual summit (Williamson/Ward, Financial Times, 6/6).
G8 leaders in July 2005 at the close of their summit in Gleneagles agreed to an immediate doubling of aid to Africa to $50 billion annually in order to fight poverty and disease on the continent. The final summit communique officially endorsed a debt relief plan, which canceled at least $40 billion in debt owed by the world's 18 poorest nations. The communique also included an agreement on providing universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, according to British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/17). According to the Times, the agreement pledged to provide 10 million HIV-positive people with treatment access by 2010.
According to a draft of the communique for this week's summit, which was dated June 1 and obtained by the Times, G8 will aim to help supply "approximately five million people" with antiretroviral access "over the next few years" -- a "dramatic cut" from the goal of providing treatment access to 10 million people, the Times reports. According to officials close to the summit, the reduced treatment target was inserted in the draft communique because of pressure from the U.S. delegation. HIV/AIDS experts and advocates said the treatment target reduction reflects divisions between the U.S. and European countries on how funding should be targeted, as well as a "realization" on the part of G8 governments that providing universal access is, in the short term, "beyond their budgets," the Times reports. Providing treatment access to about 10 million people would cost around $23 billion, according to UNAIDS. The British government is lobbying for the draft language for this week's communique to be revised, according to G8 officials, the Times reports.
An unnamed senior official familiar with the G8's plans on HIV/AIDS said the lower number would be a "huge backward step given the commitments made at Gleneagles." Francoise Ndayishimiye -- a board member from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- said it would be a "disaster" if G8 backtracks on its universal access pledge. Global Fund spokesperson Seth Amgott said that it is "unclear" if the organization will reach its spending and treatment goals if G8 reduces its target. President Bush on Wednesday after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that he comes to the summit "with a deep desire to make sure that those suffering from HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa know that they'll get help from the G8." French President Nicolas Sarkozy also has said that he will make universal treatment access one of his priorities at the summit. In addition, Merkel is expected soon to announce a new HIV/AIDS pledge of $1.35 billion, according to the German media (Financial Times, 6/6).