1,000 HIV activists take to JHB streets for US$2 billion needed to save millions of lives
US, UK & Australia have to maintain Global Fund support to avert crisis
*NOTE: This southern African activist and civil society organisation coalition concerned with HIV, TB & malaria funding includes: the Treatment Action Campaign, Médecins Sans Frontières South Africa and Swaziland , Swaziland for Positive Living, World Aids Campaign, Aids Rights Alliance of Southern Africa, He-Tic, Budget Expenditure Monitoring Forum and Section27.
JOHANNESBURG, 22 March – Today over 1,000 southern African activists from a coalition of organisations take to the streets of Johannesburg in a march to demand key international donors lead an urgent response to plug a US$2 billion treatment funding gap, so that countries across Africa can scale up their HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria programmes and avert countless unnecessary deaths.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria faces this dangerous funding shortfall of more than US$2bn because donors did not contribute enough at the Global Fund replenishment conferences; some have even reneged on commitments made earlier. Last year the crisis forced the Global Fund take the unprecedented step of cancelling an entire round of grant applications.
Unless donor countries like the US, Britain and Australia kick-start a response to solve the financial crisis of the Global Fund, dependent grant recipient countries will not get new funding to scale up programmes until 2014 – effectively shelving plans to implement better treatment to more people. This delay is the biggest threat to the accelerated scale-up of HIV and TB programmes, which is required to overcome these killer epidemics in southern African countries and globally.
“Waiting until 2014 to scale up life-saving programmes is simply not an option. Who is going tell someone who needs HIV or TB treatment now that they should come back in two years’ time because donors have given up the fight today? Drugs have saved my life, and they’ve saved millions of other people’s lives too. We need to make sure more people can access the life-saving programmes they so desperately need. To do this, we need the Global Fund to open a new funding round, and we need donors to step up so that this can happen,” says Nokhwezi Hoboyi of the Treatment Action Campaign.
The Global Fund has been pivotal in the scale up of HIV and TB epidemic treatment programmes worldwide since 2002, supporting 3.3 million people on life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and supporting 8.6 million patients to be treated for TB. Going forward, the Global Fund is expected to pay for half of the target of 15 million people to be put on ARVs by 2015 – a commitment world leaders, many of whom Global Fund donors, made at the United Nations in June last year. Currently 6.6 million people in developing countries worldwide are receiving ARVs.
“Major international donors have a choice: Either pay to treat HIV and TB today, or see a decade’s progress squandered, lives needlessly lost, more people infected, and the cost to tackle these epidemics rise considerably. We cannot allow this, it would be unforgivable,” says Mara Kardas-Nelson of MSF South Africa.
HIV activists marching today want to ensure that the Global Fund gets the US$2 billion needed to launch a new round of funding this year. This can only happen if the US sticks to its financial commitments to the Global Fund. While President Barack Obama’s February budget includes the remainder of the country’s contribution to the Global Fund – thus making good on its three-year pledge – there are concerns that the US Congress will earmark less than requested. Additionally, Obama’s budget called for cuts to PEPFAR and other bilateral HIV programmes. In some countries, such as Kenya, up to 50% of their PEPFAR monies could be cut.
“To the Obama administration we say: ‘Stop robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ PEPFAR has been crucial to the fight against HIV in southern Africa. For example, PEPFAR has covered all costs for ARVs in cash-strapped Swaziland for the last 5 months, where people living with HIV would otherwise be facing a rupture in drug supply. We can’t afford to lose either the Global Fund or PEPFAR – the US must fund both,” says Siphiwe Hlophe from Swaziland for Positive Living (SWAPOL).
The HIV activists also call on the United Kingdom and Australia to blaze the trail for a new funding round to be launched this year by calling an international Emergency Donor Conference before June 2012 and by considering giving new funds to the Global Fund. France and the European Commission should also heed this call. So far, Australia has shown remarkably strong support to fight HIV and TB by increasing its pledge to the Global Fund by 57% and already paying part of it: a contribution of US$203 million over three years (2011-2013).
“If these demands on the US, UK and Australia are to bear fruit, southern African governments must speak out frankly about the impact of HIV and TB treatment funding cutbacks. African governments, many of whom are seeing their treatment plans now dashed, must join the call for an Emergency Donor Conference. But they also have to increase their domestic health spending to avoid losing ground against HIV and TB. We are asking the South African government to lead by championing the call for the Emergency Donor Conference,” says Michaela Clayton of the AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa.
– New science presented in 2011 (HPTN 052 study) shows that ART not only save lives, but also prevents new HIV infections. Putting people on treatment earlier therefore reduces their chances of infecting others by up to 96%. This heads off not only the spread of the HIV epidemic, but also a looming resurgence in TB and drug-resistant TB.
– Up to 70% of TB patients in southern Africa are also infected with HIV.
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