It should be time to celebrate key milestones in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Recently, the United Nations announced that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths fell to their lowest levels since the epidemic’s peak. Today, 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries are on life-saving antiretroviral therapy, and people with HIV are living longer.
These gains are significant. But because of the shortsightedness of many wealthy countries, we are once again at risk of losing an opportunity to contain and control this deadly epidemic.
The announcement by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) of these gains was quickly followed by much more sobering news. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — the main financier of HIV programs around the world — reported deep funding shortfalls as Western countries shrink or skip their promised Global Fund payments.
The Global Fund is freezing expenditures for existing HIV treatment programs and removing hundreds of millions in funding for new programs. The result? Fewer people on HIV treatment, more HIV, more AIDS, more orphans, more misery, more death.
The world has been on the cusp of a promising new era in combating HIV before. At the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the globe’s most powerful economies committed to fund universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010. The global community fell short by half. Because of that, there were millions of new — preventable — HIV infections, with widespread morbidity and mortality and massive economic and social costs. Tragically, the HIV pandemic continued to expand.
Earlier this year, at the U.N., the same players renewed their pledge to fund universal access by 2015. Yet we now hear news of shrinking resources in the face of massive need.
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