Advocates at ICASA Conference Urge Donors To Sustain HIV/AIDS Funding Commitments
Advocates on Wednesday called for international donors to sustain funding commitments for HIV/AIDS efforts despite the current global economic situation, AFP/Google.com reports. The advocates spoke at the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, which is taking place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 7 in Dakar, Senegal.
Peter Piot, outgoing UNAIDS executive director, during the opening of the conference said that global HIV/AIDS efforts currently are "missing billions of euros in funding" and that the current economic situation "means that it could become more difficult to fill the gap." Piot also called for donors to fulfill pledges to support the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has been "indispensible" in the fight against HIV/AIDS and "will be even more necessary in times of crisis." Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who received the Nobel Prize in medicine this year for her work in the discovery of HIV, added that she is concerned about the "consequences of the financial crisis, particularly for the engagements of countries to the Global Fund."
Elizabeth Lule, manager of the World Bank's HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, said that the economic downturn could lead donor and recipient countries to weigh competing priorities for international aid. She asked, "[W]ill the donors and will the African government be able to manage these competing priorities and sustain the response against HIV/AIDS?" (AFP/Google.com, 12/3). According to Lule, it would be "very difficult" to scale up HIV/AIDS treatment programs if donors reduced funding levels because "African countries themselves cannot come up with" the necessary resources. Lule added that a reduction in HIV/AIDS funding could "mean very high adult mortality, which would then have a ripple effect on economic growth" because "[i]f you lose your skilled workers ... you are not going to recover from recession very easily."
According to Lule, HIV/AIDS programs should focus on prevention measures during the economic downturn because funding might be insufficient to cover the costs of universal treatment access. She added that African governments should ensure that HIV/AIDS funding is clearly allocated in national budgets and demonstrate that resources are being used effectively. In addition, international donors and African governments should collaborate closely on HIV/AIDS initiatives, Lule said, adding that she is "very optimistic that we can find solutions as a global community" (Fletcher, Reuters, 12/3). Rene Bonnel, a World Bank specialist on HIV/AIDS and the economy, added that "it is important to realize that there are more funding sources that can be tapped" for HIV/AIDS resources, including countries such as China, Japan and South Korea (AFP/Google.com, 12/3). The World Bank on Wednesday at the conference also presented a report titled "The Changing HIV/AIDS Landscape" to the 5,000 gathered delegates (AFP/Mail & Guardian, 12/3).