AIDS funding suffers due to global economic crisis - UN

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New York - A new United Nations study finds that the global financial crisis is impacting the ability of people with HIV and AIDS to obtain life-saving drugs.

A survey conducted last month by the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) found that 8 out of 69 countries already face shortages of antiretroviral drugs or other disruptions to AIDS treatment.

The results of the survey were published in the report "Averting a Human Crisis during the Global Downturn: Policy Options from the World Bank's Human Development Network".

It also showed that respondents in 22 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and Asia and Pacific expect the crisis to impact treatment programmes over the coming year.

Together, these countries are home to more than 60 percent of people worldwide on antiretroviral treatment.

Although the number of people receiving treatment globally has expanded recently, two thirds of those in need of such drugs still do not get them, and the current economic downturn could worsen the situation, including by impacting prevention programmes.

"This new report shows that people on AIDS treatment could be in danger of losing their place in the lifeboat," says Joy Phumaphi, the World Bank's Vice President for Human Development and former Health Minister for Botswana.

"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," Ms Phumaphi adds.

"It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."

The Bank is encouraging countries which depend extensively on external donor AIDS financing to identify impending cash shortages as far as possible in advance, and to liaise with the Bank and other partners to help to mobilize 'bridge financing' that prevents interruptions to AIDS treatment.

It also warns that maintaining and expanding effective HIV prevention programmes during the current crisis is essential to guard against a resurgence of new infections.

Providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services to those in need by 2010 is one of several targets world leaders committed themselves to as part of the anti-poverty objectives known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To assist countries during the current downturn, the World Bank last week announced it was mobilizing up to $3.1 billion this year in health financing to help poor countries battle threats to their social services, and doubling its education financing in low- and middle-income countries to $4.09 billion.