HIV/AIDS: progress under siege

In 2010, international donors shifted their focus away from AIDS, threatening the advances that have been made in treating the disease over the last decade.  

New scientific evidence and treatment recommendations reinforce the need to provide people with better treatment and earlier during the disease, both to prevent them from becoming severely ill, and to help reduce transmission of the virus among the population.

Despite this evidence, there is a general trend toward backtracking on HIV funding, which will increasingly mean treatment delays, deferral, or denials. The Global Fund—the world’s principal funding mechanism for HIV treatment—faces a multi-billion dollar funding gap, and in December 2010, it rejected ambitious treatment proposals in high-burden countries where MSF runs AIDS programmes, including Malawi, Swaziland and Mozambique.  The US government’s PEPFAR programme, the world’s largest funder of AIDS treatment in developing countries, has decided not to increase funding for the third year.  

This retreat from AIDS comes after a decade of progress, with five million people on treatment today – a testament to what can be done with reliable donor commitment and the availability of affordable generic medicines.  But as funding for global HIV/AIDS stagnates, and the price of needed newer drugs is on the rise, this very progress is at risk.  A further ten million people are in urgent need of treatment and will die within the next several years if left untreated.  

MSF is urging governments to create innovative and sustainable financing mechanisms such as a financial transaction tax for health to support the Global Fund and global health.  

Dr. Eric GOEMAERE, Medical Coordinator for MSF in South Africa “Today, international donors expect doctors to tell patients to come back for treatment when they’re at death’s door. This is bad medicine. As a doctor, I’d much rather give a patient pills today and send her home, than delay treatment and see her in six months at the hospital with complicated tuberculosis.”