Economic crisis hits Aids funding

Funding by rich economies for poor countries fighting HIV/Aids fell back slightly last year, to 7.6 billion dollars after 7.7 billion dollars in 2008, as a result of the economic recession, a report card issued at the world Aids forum said.

The 7.6 billion dollars were provided by the Group of Eight (G8) nations, the European Commission and other donors. "The 2009 totals ended a run of annual double-digit percentage-point increases in donor support for international Aids assistance since at least 2002, when donor governments provided a total of 1.2 billion," said the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the UN agency UNAIDS.

Donor nations 'treading water'

"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," Kaiser head Drew Altman added in a press release.

"Time will tell whether support will resume its rapid growth once the global recovery takes hold."

Of the 7.6 billion, donor governments disbursed 5.9 billion bilaterally and through multilateral organizations; 1.6 billion through the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and 123 million to the organisation UNITAID.

Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands were among the countries that trimmed donations.

US increased aid

But their reduction was largely offset by an increase in help from the United States, whose support rose from 3.95 billion dollars in 2008 to 4.4 billion in 2009.

The US alone accounted for 58% of disbursements in 2009, followed by Britain (10.2%), Germany (5.2%), the
Netherlands (5.0%), and France (4.4%).

The report said that for poorer countries - "low- and middle-income" economies - 23.6 billion dollars was needed from all sources for 2009. The gap in funding last year was 7.7 billion dollars.

Hurting the Aids response

"Reductions in investment on Aids programmes are hurting the Aids response. At a time when we are seeing results in HIV prevention and treatment, we must scale up, not scale down," said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director.

For 2010, 25 billion dollars has to be mustered for fighting Aids in poorer countries, according to a previous UNAIDS estimate.

So far, there is a funding shortfall of 11.3 billion, according to an analysis published this month in the US journal Science.

In 2006, members of the UN General Assembly determined they would provide "universal access" to HIV drugs, prevention, treatment and care by 2010.

The report was issued on the first day of the 18th International AIDS Conference, a meeting held every two years. It runs in Vienna until Friday.

At least 33 million people are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a microbe that causes AIDS by
destroying the immune system and exposing the body to opportunistic disease. The tally of new infections is rising by around 2.7 million a year, according to UN figures for 2008. - (Sapa, July 2010)

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