Monday, May 30, 2011

Can The AIDS Fight Stay Funded?

The world has currently reached a turning point in AIDS treatment. New evidence has shown that the AIDS epidemic can finally be controlled. However, this means more international aid spending at a time of global economic recession. Estimates have shown that funding from donor nations to fight AIDS actually fell in 2010. This is the first decline ever in spending on the fight against HIV/AIDS, a virus that afflicts the lives of 33 million people globally.

In early May, a study, funded by the US National Institute of Health and led by Myron Cohen, proved that AIDS drugs (antiretrovirals) not only are able to restore health to those inflicted with HIV, but also make them less infectious compared to those not taking the drug. Those on antiretrovirals are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Experts have found that treatment combined with other preventive tools could potentially "turn the tide" on the epidemic that kills 2.5 million people every year.

On June 8-10th in New York, The UN High Level Meeting will be held regarding HIV/AIDS. The point of contention is whether to set targets for how many people to put on AIDS treatments. These targets cannot be met though if funding continues to decrease. After the drop in 2010 due to the economic crisis, new money will need to be used/donated in order to buy medicine for people fighting the disease. By the end of 2009, 5.2 million people were on the treatment. Globally, donors gave $15.9 billion that year. But with the global economic crisis still taking a toll, the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been witness to many nations failing to meet their pledges. Italy rejected any payment at all for 2009 and 2010, creating $192 million in arrears, according to the Global Fund. Netherlands has similarily reduced its payment by $41 million.

The UN meeting is proposing to endorse a declaration on how to combat the epidemic. Activists want to have 15 million people on treatment by 2015 and the US strongly supports the ambitions. The US has taken leadership and set its own goal at treating over four million people in poor countries by the year 2013. The United States is even ahead of schedule! There are 3.2 million patients on antiretrovirals as of September 2010.

-Gabrielle Gurian

Interested in the ongoing AIDS battle?
Watch the video interview with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci on his thirty years fighting AIDS