Overall, financial support for international HIV/AIDS assistance fell more than 1 percent to R64,2 billion (US $7.6 billion) in 2009, from R65 billion (US$7.7 billion) the previous year, according to a report from Kaiser Family Foundation and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The report measured donations from the Group of Eight most industrialized nations, European Commission and other donor governments to low- and moderate-income countries, and noted difficulties interpreting real value as reporting cycles and currency fluctuated.
“Reductions in investment on AIDS programs are hurting the AIDS response,” said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé in a statement. “At a time when we are seeing results in HIV prevention and treatment, we must scale up, not scale down.”
Until now, financial aid increased by at least 11 percentage points annually since 2002, when the groups donated R10,1 billion (US$1.2 billion) for international AIDS assistance. Consider that in 2008 alone, assistance jumped up 57 percent to R65 billion(US$7.7 billion), from R41,4 billion (US$4.9 billion) in 2007.
The news comes on the heels of South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s plea for world leaders to renew their commitment to universal access for HIV/AIDS treatment.
“Even as the world experiences economic hardship, HIV/AIDS must not be the soft target of austerity measures,” Motlanthe told a crowd in Vienna this week at the 18th International AIDS Conference, which brings together international groups every two years to tackle global AIDS issues.
The United States-the world’s largest donor nation-increased its contribution by more than 11 percent to R37,2 billion (US$4.4 billion) in 2009, from R33,6 billion (US$3.95 billion) the year earlier. The U.S. provided 58 percent of the total disbursements last year, offsetting reductions by several European countries.
Total international AIDS funding still fell approximately R65 billion (US$7.7 billion) short of the need last year, Kaiser estimates.
Today, five million people are on antiretroviral treatment worldwide, but 10 million have yet to access the treatment, Sidibe said.
At the conference, Motlanthe urged governments – including his own – to include antiretroviral drug expenses in their budgets to help ensure that treatment is available to all who need it.
In 2009, the South African government and its donor partners provided R17.6 billion to the country’s antiretroviral treatment programme, which is the largest in the world. Eighty-three percent of the contribution was provided by the South African government, according to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. The South African government has put aside R3 billion to expand the programme and expects 2.1 million patients to be enrolled by the end of the 2013 financial year.
It’s an investment, most at the conference agreed, that will pay off in the end. Effective antiretroviral treatment reduces the likelihood of the virus’ transmission by approximately 60 percent, according to a recent Lancet study.
“Only by preventing new infections, will we break the trajectory of the disease,” said Motlanthe.
Low- and moderate-income countries are now looking hesitantly toward future funding, as wealthy countries like the U.S. have announced that they will be freezing or reducing their aid.
“Donor nations essentially were treading water last year on AIDS relief, but did not cut back overall as they dealt with the economic tsunami that sparked a global recession,” KFF president and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. “Time will tell whether support will resume its rapid growth once the global recovery takes hold.”