According to an announcement made by the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), data released from UNAIDS shows that the increasing number of averted HIV/AIDS mortalities has achieved significant progress, however, the number of people receiving treatment must be increased dramatically to benefit from the new science that shows HIV treatment can both saves lives and help prevent new infections.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Board meeting opened this week in Accra, Ghana - treating more people for HIV requires substantial additional funding, but AIDS funding has been declined for the past two years.
According to landmark research in 2011, individuals who start HIV treatment early are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to others. Political commitment has also risen this year, with the U.S. announcing that it will "turn the tide on AIDS", a declaration that was previously unthinkable as official U.S. policy.
In June, governments committed to reach 15 million people receiving HIV treatment by 2015. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria assured their support by agreeing to pay for half of the target.
With the treatment scale looming under the increasing threat, the MSF urges both affected and donor governments to ensure that the execution of this plan gets accelerated to achieve the goal for 2015. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of required funds to turn this year's scientific and political breakthroughs into wider access of treatment for millions of people and for the first time since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund is now forced to miss a year of funding proposals.
Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive Director of MSF's Access Campaign declares:
"Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around. Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science seize this moment and reverse the AIDS epidemic. But this means nothing if there's no money to make it happen."
In several countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa where the MSF is active, governments are eager to put ambitious national HIV treatment strategies into action by incorporating 'accelerated treatment' components, for example, starting treatments for HIV infected people at an earlier stage of the disease, immediate start of treatment for HIV-positive people with HIV-negative partners and starting immediate life-long treatment for HIV-positive expectant mothers. But without increased funding, opportunities to prevent the spread of infection are lost and the threat of going backwards is very real.
This and next year's Global Fund's budget shortfall means ambitious country proposals of saving more lives and significantly reducing new infections cannot be funded.
According to MSF witness reports, even existing national treatment programs are now under threat from severe cuts in countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The MSF urges the Global Fund to prevent further delay, downsize, or cut its newest round of funding applications, asking donors and the Fund to raise the required funding for covering the costs of quality proposals so that countries are able to realize priority interventions with the highest impact on the epidemic.
Shelagh Woods, Head of the MSF's project in rural Malawi urges:
"Right now, we're in an absurd situation where the signposts all point in one direction to get a handle on HIV/AIDS, yet the funding crunch is pulling us the opposite way. We have to act fast and reach as many people as possible to save lives and avoid slipping back, but countries can't do this alone."
The MSF started treating HIV/AIDS in 2000 and at present enables 170,000 people in 10 countries to receive HIV therapy. Based on the new evidence, the MSF has recently opened a pilot project in the KwaZulu Natal province, which has the highest infection rate in South Africa, with the goal of reducing infections by testing an accelerated treatment, together with conventional prevention amongst the entire community.
MSF's June 2011 report, "Getting Ahead of the Wave of New Infections - Lessons for the Next Decade of the AIDS" can be seen here.
Written by Petra Rattue