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World Financial Crisis And AIDS Backlash Threaten Lives
Medical News Today
July 8, 2009


On the eve of the G8 Summit in Italy, the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) calls on leaders of the world's richest countries to announce significant additional funds to ensure that AIDS treatment and prevention programs for millions of men, women and children do not become a casualty of the economic down-turn.

"Cutting funds for HIV programs would be a clear disaster for the four million people already on treatment, the seven million people who need treatment and millions more who need effective HIV prevention programmes," said Aditi Sharma, coordinator of the Treatment Monitoring and Advocacy Project of ITPC. "We call on the G8 to commit their fair share towards meeting the Universal Access target -- a first step would be to plug the $5 billion funding gap for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria."

Reacting to a new report from UNAIDS and the World Bank(1), which found that the global economic crisis has already disrupted AIDS treatment programmes in eight countries and is expected to impact programs in an additional 21 countries by the end of this year, activists from around the world called on all governments to ensure sustained funding for HIV programmes and put in place early warning systems that alert them to impending drug stock-outs and treatment interruptions.

"Let us be completely clear about what this report is saying," said Gregg Gonsalves, co-founder of ITPC. "People living with HIV/AIDS, who are now receiving treatment, are in danger of losing their drugs because of cutbacks and funding reallocations. Many of those people will die. We cannot allow AIDS backlash or the current economic situation to be used as excuses for failing to meet commitments."

"We must continue to scale up and sustain AIDS treatment and prevention programmes in Eastern African countries," said Rose Kaberia of the Network of African People Living with HIV/AIDS, and a member of ITCP from Kenya. "Scaling back these programmes would have a devastating impact on individuals who need treatment, on the health system, which could be overwhelmed by AIDS-related illnesses, and on the progress made in reducing the number of new HIV infections in the region. In addition, national food security programmes need to be supported as a matter of urgency to safeguard treatment adherence for people living with HIV in Eastern Africa." In Eastern and Southern Africa, where the economic downturn is having a devastating impact on already meager family incomes, many women find themselves forced to choose between antiretroviral drugs and food for their families. Drugs that were once affordable may be out of reach due to currency devaluations or other economic factors.

"Women should not have to choose between lifesaving drugs and food," said Lillian Mworeko, regional coordinator for the International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS, East Africa and coordinator of the HIV Collaborative Fund for Women & Families in Africa, from Uganda. "A decade ago, many people said that it was impossible to provide AIDS treatment to millions of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. We've proven that it can be done and we must now show that it can be sustained, even through this global economic crisis."

ITPC's Missing the Target reports have documented the effects of drug stock-outs, supply chain problems and other issues that cause interruptions in HIV treatment and can lead to a rise in drug resistant strains of HIV, treatment failure, and death. The UNAIDS/World Bank report notes that the health of millions of patients may be threatened even by short-term treatment interruptions.

"People living with HIV/AIDS should not have to bear the burden of the global economic crisis," added Aditi Sharma. "Governments and donors can and should find innovative ways to ensure that people already on treatment stay on treatment and that those who need treatment will have access to it. Universal access to AIDS treatment must not be sacrificed."

(1)UNAIDS/World Bank report, "The Global Economic Crisis and HIV Prevention and Treatment Programmes: Vulnerabilities and Impact," June 2009

About the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition

The International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) is a worldwide coalition of people living with HIV and advocates that uses a community-driven approach to achieve universal access to treatment, prevention, and all health care services for people living with HIV and those at-risk. ITPC's Treatment Monitoring & Advocacy Project will continue to assess the progress of scale up of AIDS treatment programs and the impact of the global economic crisis on AIDS treatment programs in countries around the world.

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