U.K. To Provide About $12B To Improve Health Services in Developing Countries, Fight HIV/AIDS, Official Says
United Kingdom International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander on Monday announced that the government will provide six billion British pounds, or $11.8 billion, over seven years to improve health services and systems in developing countries to fight HIV/AIDS, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 6/2).
According to Alexander, the seven-year strategy aims to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. The Achieving Universal Access strategy will commit the United Kingdom to increasing coverage of services for injection drug users, meeting the needs of AIDS orphans and children affected by the disease, and working with other groups to reduce the cost of antiretroviral treatment, the Press Association reports. The strategy also will commit the country to preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and increasing the availability of family planning services, including male and female condoms. The United Kingdom will spend more than 200 million pounds, or about $394 million, over the next three years to support social protection programs and will increase funding for research and development of HIV/AIDS vaccines and microbicides by 50%.
Under the plan, the U.K. Department for International Development also will provide about $100 million pounds, or $197 million, over the next six years to improve Nigeria's national response to HIV. About $30 million pounds, or $60 million, of that funding will be specifically allocated to provide no-cost condoms to Nigeria (Press Association, 6/2).
Alexander in a written statement said the financial commitment "demonstrates [the United Kingdom's] determination to remain at the forefront of global efforts to achieve universal access." He added, "If we are to achieve universal access and to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS, the evidence demonstrates that we require a long-term approach, across a range of health systems and services" (AFP/Google.com, 6/2).
Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell welcomed the announcement but called for more scrutiny. The "strategy paper is sensible and constructive," Mitchell said, adding, "But the government needs to be more self-critical about whether we are actually getting the results we expect, both on behalf of the people we are trying to help, and of British taxpayers." Mitchell noted that an annual assessment of the program's impact is needed rather than the planned independent review in three years. "We also need specific interim country-level targets so that leaders can be held to account on their promise to deliver universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment by 2010," he said.
Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy at Oxfam, said, "The announcement of this much needed, long-term financial commitment to help strengthen health systems in the developing world is a very welcome one." He added, "But tackling the AIDS epidemic will require more than investment in health systems. It is also about factors such as education, awareness raising, counseling and the provision of security of food and income for all those who need it, whether" living with or affected by HIV/AIDS (Press Association, 6/2).