Global Fund Executive Director Kazatchkine Discusses Funding Shortfall, Harm Reduction Programs
Michel Kazatchkine -- executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- on Monday at the opening of the Harm Reduction 2009 conference in Bangkok, Thailand, discussed the Global Fund's budget shortfall and efforts to curb the spread of HIV among injection drug users, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. According to Kazatchkine, the Global Fund faces a shortfall of $4 billion next year. "We are facing a financial crisis," he said. According to Kazatchkine, the Global Fund has requested $2.7 billion from the U.S., which typically contributes about 30% of the organization's budget. He added that the Global Fund is uncertain about how much the U.S. and other wealthy nations will contribute because of the economic downturn. "Times of crisis are times when we should supply more funding, not less," Kazatchkine said (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20).
He added that the global financial crisis could undermine years of progress in addressing HIV/AIDS and providing treatment access. "The financial crisis obviously is affecting the rich countries, and, therefore, I am very concerned about their ability to keep up development aid commitments," he said, adding, "In global health, it is a slow slope to make progress, it takes you time to actually see the gains. If the efforts are not sustained, we will lose a lot of gains that we have made in the last six to eight years" (AFP/Gulf Times, 4/21).
According to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the Global Fund is the leading multilateral donor of harm-reduction initiatives -- including methadone substitution, needle-exchange programs and antiretroviral drug access -- for IDUs worldwide (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20). During his address to the conference, Kazatchkine said that drug use should be decriminalized to help curb the spread of HIV. "I am talking about decriminalization of drug users," he said, adding, "I am not talking about decriminalization of drug trafficking, there should not be any misunderstanding. Drug users have been looked towards as criminals, they are arrested, harassed, they are imprisoned, they have no access to services, they are not respected in the very basic human rights perspective" (AFP/Gulf Times, 4/21).
Pratin Dharmarak, Thailand's country representative for Population Services International, said that about 30% to 40% of the country's estimated 200,000 IDUs are living with HIV. "Services for [IDUs have] been overlooked," Pratin said. Thailand this year received $100 million from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS efforts, some of which will be allocated to harm-reduction efforts among IDUs, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur. However, because of next year's funding shortfall, such programs in the region likely will see reductions, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. Kazatchkine said that the Global Fund is "facing challenges in being able to fund the next applications that are coming in what we call Round 9" (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20).