Fears of a resurgence in the HIV/AIDS
virus are growing as the reduction in the
number of new infections has stalled and
funding has fallen for the first time in five
years.
The news came ahead of the week-long
annual AIDS conference, which kicked off
today in Durban, South Africa.
Campaigners, scientists and experts have
been convening at the event for the last
six years to discuss progress in ending
the epidemic.
This year, for the first time since they
jolted the world into action in 2000,
attendees will issue warnings that the
virus is starting to win back ground.
The number of people that become
infected with the virus every year, which
had been falling, has now stalled in many
countries. In others, a report by the
United Nations’ agency UNAIDS said
there had been worrying increases in new
infections.
Since 2010, the annual number of new
infections among those aged 15 and
above has remained static, at an
estimated 1.9 million (in 2015, new
infections ranged from between 1.7-2.2
million).
Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Poland, Egypt
and Kenya are among those that have
seen the largest increases since 2005,
with a rise in new infections greater than
49%.
In a report released over the weekend,
UNAIDS and the US-based Kaiser Family
Foundation warned that funding to
support HIV efforts in low- and middle-
income countries had fallen for the first
time in five years in 2015.
The drop was significant, amounting to
almost $1bn. In 2014, support stood at $
8.6bn, compared to $7.5bn last year.
The report pointed out that the
appreciation of the US dollar, which
resulted in the depreciation of most other
donor currencies, had had an impact.
However, it said this was not enough to
account for the decline in full, and the
majority of governments assessed had
reduced their support.
This includes the US, the UK, France and
Germany, but the report noted that the fall
in support from the US – which provides
the lion’s share of funds – was mostly
due to timing as it shifts cash into 2016
to implement new and expand existing
programmes.
Regarding other donors, Kaiser Family
Foundation vice president and director of
global health and HIV policy, Jen Kates,
pointed out they had faced “many
competing funding demands”, including
emergencies like the war in Syria and the
refugee crisis, “against a backdrop of
fiscal austerity in a number of countries”.
“Looking ahead, donor funding for HIV
remains uncertain as leading donors face
changes in political leadership and the
world is still digesting the effects of
Brexit ,” she warned.
The commitment to meet the sustainable
development goals, which include targets
on HIV/AIDS and ambitious targets on
many other issues, puts further pressure
on limited funds. It is estimated as much
as $4.5tn could be needed annually to
meet the SDGs by 2030.
Changes to the definition of official
overseas aid will further divert scarce
cash away from the core purpose of aid,
campaigners have warned .
This weekend’s report warned that
already, the SDG target to reduce new HIV
infections to fewer than 500,000 by 2020
are off track.
“Countries still need urgent support over
the next few years to fast-track their
response to HIV, enabling them to end the
AIDS epidemic by 2030 and save millions
of lives,” said Luiz Loures, UNAIDS
deputy executive director.
“Diverting resources from the HIV
response now will mean much greater
human and financial costs over the long-
term.”
The World Health Organisation has also
voiced concern ahead of this week’s
conference, warning on treatment and
drug resistance, as well as prevention
and funding.
Greater access to simple and affordable
testing and drugs is needed, it said. It
also noted some “worrisome indications”
that drug resistance is emerging as a
significant threat and said it would be
closely monitoring these trends.
“The enormous progress on HIV,
particularly on treatment, is one of the big
public health success stories of the
century,” said Margaret Chan, director-
general of the WHO. “But this is no time
for complacency. If the world is to
achieve its goal of ending AIDS by 2030,
it must rapidly expand and intensify its
efforts.”

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