Monday, July 19, 2010

International AIDS Conference worries about money

At the start of the International AIDS Conference in Vienna there is a lot of worrying about money. The speakers at the conference all expressed concern about money for AIDS funding being cut back or staying the same. Right now, only a third of HIV-positive people receive drugs to stay healthy, more funding is needed to give the drugs to all.

From this Reuters article, writer Kate Kelland covered the start of the conference.

Speaking at the start of an international gathering of some 20,000 AIDS activists, scientists and HIV patients in Vienna, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised progress made against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but said this could be jeopardized if governments trimmed budgets.

"Some governments are cutting back on their response to AIDS. This should be a cause for great concern to us all," he told the conference via videolink from New York.

Michel Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said it needed up to $20 billion in the next three years to sustain progress.

"I am hugely afraid. I am very concerned," he told reporters at the Vienna conference. "Because of the (global financial) crisis ... because of the competing priorities."

"I hear of many governments cutting official development aid, but I hear other governments saying that despite cuts in other areas, foreign assistance will remain -- and I also hear other governments with good news. It is very up and down."

A report published at the conference by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) found that overall support for global AIDS effort from donor nations flattened out last year in the midst of global economic crisis.

In 2009, the Group of Eight leading wealthy nations, the European Commission and other donor governments provided $7.6 billion for AIDS relief in developing nations, compared with $7.7 billion disbursed in 2008, it said.

World leaders set this year as a deadline for universal access to treatment for all HIV/AIDS patients who need it, but the head of the International AIDS Society Julio Montaner echoed the tone of protesters, who shouted "broken promises kill."

Montaner rebuked politicians for failing to deliver on their promise, saying that only a third of the 15 million people who need potentially life-saving AIDS drugs currently get them.

"Today we have treatments that work, we have shown that this can be done ... what we need now is the political will to go the extra mile to deliver on universal access," he said.

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