Africa News blog

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Crisis raises AIDS funding worries

February 11, 2009

HIV infection rates in Africa have slowed since the start of the decade, but statistics still make very grim reading on the worst affected continent – of the global total of 2.1 million deaths due to AIDS in 2007, 1.6 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.

An estimated 1.7 million people were infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 compared to 2.2 million new infections in 2001.

Some now fear that progress could be knocked off course by the global financial crisis, potentially reducing the funds that Western donors have available for fighting the disease and providing treatment.

An official from the Global Call to Action against Poverty said recently that Kenya had already been asked by one donor to fund HIV and tuberculosis programme itself. Other donors, such as Oxfam, have said they fear the financial crisis will lead to funding cuts as developed countries have other priorities – such as saving their financial systems.

In a speech in a South African township this week, the newly appointed head of the U.N. agency UNAIDS noted that the “world has a responsibility to stabilise the market failure”

“But the same world has a moral responsibility to make sure that four million people who are on (HIV) treatment will continue to have treatment, six million more will have access to treatment…,” said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe.

UNAIDS says it needs about $25 billion to ensure universal access to HIV treatment by 2010. It says interrupting funding could lead to millions of deaths in Africa.

Can AIDS still be tackled effectively by poor countries without as much in donor funding? What should governments do? What do you think?

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