28 November 2012

AIDS Progress is Off Track, says ONE Campaign Report

Progress over the past two years against AIDS leads advocates to speak optimistically about the end of the devastating pandemic. In the same period of time there have been five million people newly infected with HIV, a number that represents a slowing of progress according to a new ONE Campaign report.

"The world is off-track for achieving the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015," says the report which shows that the number of new infections are continuing a slow decline while the number of people newly put on ARVs has flat-lined since 2010. To alter the trajectories of prevention and treatment efforts will bring the world to what the ONE campaign calls "the beginning of the end of AIDS."

Projections based on current trends show that the point where the number of new people who receive ARVs will not exceed the number of new infections until 2022. ONE proposes an alternative projection where 140,000 people are added to ARV treatment each year and a doubling of prevention efforts will accelerate the transition point to be met by 2015.

To do so will require a global effort, not one that only involves traditional donor nations. "I call for a shift from the perception that aid is charity to an understanding that it is our shared responsibility and a smart investment that reaps dividends for all. Together, we must foster a more sustainable response to the HIV epidemic for the sake of our common future," says UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon in the report.

More specifically, the level of financing must fill the gap of $6 billion estimated by UNAIDS. Seven countries and the European Commission are singled out in regards to their AIDS donations. ONE commends the United States, UK and France while adding pressure on Canada Germany and Japan. The per capita spending by the United States ($14.54), which is also the largest net donor, is roughly three times greater than Germany ($3.82) and more than twenty times greater than Japan ($0.66).

ONE's head Michael Elliott made sure to tell Reuters that he understands that many countries are under financial stress since 2008 and the earthquake in Japan was out of the country's control. "You have to be an unfeeling idiot, which we're not, to fail to recognize that the last few years have been tough economic times for people in many places all over the world," he said. "(And) Italy may have fiscal problems. But it's not going to solve its fiscal problems on the back of development assistance."

African countries also have a role to play in filling the spending gap. The members of the African Union  signed a commitment to allocate at least 15% of their budgets on health as a part of the Abuja Declaration. Only four countries (Togo, Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda) have met the target as of 2010. Three years remain to meet the goal and the majority of African nations are above the 10% threshold. However, there are thirteen countries that will need to make drastic changes by at least doubling their health budgets in order to meet the goal.

The report recommends using 2013 as a year to step up efforts. "Here's a moment to put your pedal to the metal and go for it," says Elliott. A replenishment meeting for the Global Fund in September and the ongoing discussions about the post-2015 agenda are instances, says ONE, where donors, organizations, governments and individuals can show their commitment to ending AIDS.

"Without scaled-up financing, more targeted programming and expanded displays of political will, this will remain a distant ambition, and millions of lives will hang in the balance. But with renewed urgency and concerted action, the world can transform the beginning of the end of AIDS from a vision to a reality and chart a course towards ending this pandemic," conclude the authors.