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UNAIDS Director Cautions Against Funding Cuts To Global Fund

During an appeal to government and private donors to pledge money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Monday, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe warned of the repercussions tightening budgets could play in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press reports. “An estimated 94 percent of patients on anti-retroviral treatment in Africa count on external donor funds to provide their medications, Sidibe said,” according to the news service. “If we stop now, if we reduce the financing, the people who are on treatment today … we will transform their hope for universal access into a universal nightmare, because they will start dying,” Sidibe told the AP.

Sidibe’s comments came the same day as the release of the Global Fund’s annual report, which documented the international gains made against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria since the establishment of the institution in 2002. “In October this year, the Global Fund will ask donors for financial contributions during its conference in New York. … There is concern that the global economic downturn could negatively impact the funding commitments made by donor countries,” the AP reports (Tay, 3/8).

The Global Fund’s Director of Strategy, Performance and Evaluation, Rifat Atun, explained that expanding the gains highlighted in the report “will require the partnership to continue to work in the effective way in which it has done,” VOA News reports. “The Global Fund says it will be able to reach several health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015, if it receives the money it needs to continue scaling up its activities in the coming years,” according to the news service (Schlein, 3/8).

PlusNews/IRIN examines the effect the economy could have on funding commitments to the Global Fund. Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine “said he hoped donors would renew or increase their commitments, come October, and that developed nations would realize that the economic downturn plaguing their domestic constituencies had often been felt much harder in countries with a high disease burden and export-driven economies,” the news service writes (3/8).

In related news, HIV/AIDS advocates “in Cape Town yesterday called on global leaders to step up funding for HIV treatment, saying failure to do so would cost lives and devastate economies in countries hard hit by the pandemic,” BusinessDay reports. The appeal came “ahead of a high-level meeting in London today on the [G8's] commitment to ensure universal access to treatment by the end of this year,” the newspaper writes (Kahn, 3/9).

“In 2005, the U.K. led the charge for the G8 and then the whole world at the U.N. to commit to this ambitious goal. … It’s sad, but truly the fact, that we’re about a third of the way there,” International AIDS Society Executive Director Robin Gorna said, VOA News reports in a second story. According to Gorna, attendees of the London meeting will “try very hard to reignite the energy and the passion to achieve that goal of universal access to HIV treatment, prevention and care. We estimate there are about 10 million people who need HIV treatment today and are simply not able to access it” (DeCapua, 3/8).

Inter Press Service also examines the G8’s commitment to universal access by 2010 and advocates’ concerns “about shifting donor priorities that have made uncertain support for the Global Fund.” The article details additional effects a reduction in HIV programs could have on health care systems in developing countries (Palitza, 3/8).