UNAIDS chief says 25 billion dollars needed despite economic crisis

Business Materials 10 February 2009 15:00 (UTC +04:00)

The new head of the United Nations AIDS agency on Tuesday called for global spending on HIV/AIDS programmes to be nearly doubled, but acknowledged that securing 25 billion dollars in the current economic climate would "not be easy."

Speaking in Khayelitsha, a sprawling township outside Cape Town, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said: "We cannot let the economic crisis paralyze us, dpa reported.

"We cannot let down the 4 million people on treatment and millions more in need today."

Sidibe said 25 billion dollars was required to help countries affected by the HIV pandemic reach their targets on universal access to prevention and treatment by 2010.

The current shortfall was around 11.3 billion dollars, he said.

"It will not be easy to close this gap but it is achievable and absolutely necessary if we are to accelerate the pace of the response to the AIDS epidemic," said Sidibe.

While affected countries could drum up one-third of the funding, the international community would need to provide 17 billion dollars, he said.

Some of that money would go towards strengthening health systems in developing countries and shoring up the underfunded Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most heavily affected by HIV worldwide, accounting for two-thirds of all infections and three- quarters of AIDS deaths in 2007. South Africa has the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, at around 5.7 million.

Khayelitsha was the first South African community to get a proper treatment programme, when the French international medical charity Doctors Without Borders began distributing life-prolonging anti- retrovirals (ARVs) in the township in 2001.

UN member states in 2006 committed to taking extraordinary action to move towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Meeting the targets would mean avoiding 1.3 million deaths and around 2.6 million new infections in the next two years, Sibide said.