Global Financial Crisis Should Not Affect HIV/AIDS Funding, Sidibe Says
The global financial crisis should not keep world leaders from their "moral responsibility" to address HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said on Tuesday in South Africa, Reuters India reports. According to Reuters India, some health experts and government officials believe that wealthy countries might cut back on health spending in light of the global economic situation, hindering a United Nations target to halt the spread of HIV by 2015.
"The world has a political responsibility to stabilize the market failure," Sidibe said, adding, "But the same world has a moral responsibility to make sure that the four million people who are on (HIV) treatment will continue to have treatment, six million more will have access to treatment." Sidibe said that he wants UNAIDS to become more involved with communities and protect marginalized groups, adding, "I want to make sure that UNAIDS becomes really the voice of the voiceless."
According to Sidibe, 111 countries have set a goal of reaching universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010 -- a goal that he said is possible (Reuters India, 2/10). An additional $11.3 billion is needed to reach the goal of universal access, according to Sidibe. "We cannot let the economic crisis paralyze us," he said, adding, "Stimulus packages and economic adjustments should be made with a human face in mind. We don't need much money, we need only $25 billion. $25 billion is nothing for saving 1.3 million lives, making sure 2.6 million are not infected."
According to Sidibe, one-third of the additional funding needed to reach the universal access target should come from domestic sources in each country, assuming that governments do not reduce health budgets to address the economic downturn (AFP/Google.com, 2/10).
Also speaking at the event, South Africa's Health Minister Barbara Hogan said that the government aims to increase the number of people with access to antiretroviral drugs to 1.5 million over the next three years, compared with the 700,000 people who currently have treatment access. The ceremony, which took place in the township of Khayelitsha, was held to mark Sidibe's first foreign visit as the head of UNAIDS. "Khayelitsha has been the battleground of the fight against HIV and AIDS and of the fight against people who wanted to deny it was a serious issue," Hogan said at the event, adding, "I salute you" (Nullis, AP/Google.com, 2/10).
A UNAIDS report about reaching 2010 targets is available online. A letter from Sidibe also is available online.