Financial Crisis Placing 1.7M HIV-Positive People Worldwide at Risk of Treatment Interruption, World Bank Report Says
Antiretroviral treatment for up to 1.7 million HIV-positive people worldwide is "under threat" because of the current economic crisis, according to a report released on Friday by the World Bank, the Financial Times reports. The report examined the effect of the economic crisis on 69 of the most impoverished countries worldwide and found that 15 believed they are "highly exposed" to the risk of antiretroviral treatment interruption because of decreases in domestic and foreign funding (Jack, Financial Times, 4/25). The report also found that eight countries currently face antiretroviral shortages or other treatment disruptions. In addition, about 22 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region likely will face hurdles in providing antiretrovirals this year (Wroughton, Reuters, 4/25).
According to the report, because governments are hesitant to stop treatment for HIV-positive people already receiving drugs, prevention programs could be cut even more. The report found that 34 countries, which represent three-quarters of HIV-positive people worldwide, said they anticipate prevention programs aimed at high-risk groups to be negatively affected. Joy Phumaphi, the World Bank's vice president for human development, said, "This new report shows that people with AIDS could be in danger of losing their place in the lifeboat. The global economic downturn has taken a wrecking ball to growth and development in the developing world."
The World Bank has said that requests for funding from developing countries for its current fiscal year have more than tripled compared with one year before. Through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, the World Bank expects to authorize $3.1 billion for health, compared with $1 billion during the same period last year.
Jon Liden of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said, "Everybody knew that once started, a continuous supply of commodities was a lifelong pledge. We are talking about a set of global commitments that the world cannot run away from." According to Liden, the Global Fund has commitments from government donors at least through 2011 to 2012, although he added that there could be a possible crunch for the latest ninth round of requests. Liden said that although the Global Fund might be willing to consider more rapid additional funding to help countries in filling short-term budget gaps, no such requests have been made. In addition, the Global Fund is not able to provide extra support if the funding provided allows countries to divert domestic spending to activities not related to health, according to Liden (Financial Times, 4/25).
The report is available online (.pdf).