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HIV funding hole will cost lives

In spite of the recession, the world body dealing with Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, was banking on donors promising much more money than they did at a New York meeting this week.

The Global Fund, the main agency that funds the fight against the killer diseases wanted to double its budget to £13 billion over the next three years.

With this amount, it would have been able to triple the number of anti-retroviral treatments for HIV from 2.5m at the end of 2009 to 7.5m. The fund also called for extra money to combat malaria. Anti-malaria work is as much as 60% short of the £3 billion needed, said a study by Oxford University’s Bob Snow, in the Lancet, medical journal, this week.

But world donors only managed this week to come up with £7 billion in promises, below even the £8 billion minimum that the Global Fund said it needed.

The shortfall will cause millions of deaths, say global health organisations. Michel Kazatchkine, the Global Fund’s boss, said existing schemes will not be cut, but that the shortfall will count as a blow to planned new ones.

Britain did not pledge any money at this week’s meeting but says it may do in future.

The figures, "suggest that we have a long, hard road ahead of us in terms of what it is going to take to combat Aids,” said Dr Robert Hecht, who led the study in the Lancet. “But there is a window of opportunity in the next couple of years. Countries can really change where they are going in terms of how many lives they save and infections they prevent.

"It is a hopeful message. The leaders in these countries have some rather distinct choices. The key thing is to spend the money extremely well and get the most value from it."

The report pinpoints three distinct groups of countries – those with high burden of disease and low income (such as Mozambique), those with low disease burden and middle income (such as China) and those with high disease burden and middle income (such as South Africa).

The most worrying situation is in the poorest countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, where things are unlikely to improve in the next few years.

The group warns that even if the world adopted the fullest possible plan for preventing transmission of the disease, HIV will not be halted. They estimate that 1.2 million people would still become infected in 2031.

Hayley attribution