Warren expressed worry following research results of funding presented at the International AIDS 2018 Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which show that globally funding on HIV has significantly gone down.
Researchers from Harvard Chan School of Public Health and a USA based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation also warned that ”cuts to development assistance for HIV could do serious harm in hard-hit countries, which continue to rely greatly on aid".
The researchers warned that if nothing is done to keep the funding pace as expected, the positive progress made in the fight against the pandemic will all go back to nothing.The funding cuts among others will directly affect HIV prevention research, treatment and advocacy.
Warren who is the Executive Director for AVAC, a global HIV Prevention advocacy organization, advised governments and donors to advocate for more resources adding that “this is not the time to give up”.
Warren said experts in the field of HIV and AIDS in 2000, at the Durban South Africa AIDS conference, advocated for more HIV funding calling for a move from millions to billions of dollars. Although people thought it was something unachievable but donors responded positively and the move from million to billion dollars was achieved.
“Funding from the US government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-PEPFAR-, Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and increasing amounts of funding coming from other countries made it possible for funding to increase as advocated” Warren said.
According to Warren the increase in funds made it possible for people living with HIV to access treatment as the numbers of people on antiretroviral therapy increased to 21 million in 2017 from less than 1 million in 2000 globally.
“Apart from boosting the treatment interventions the funding trend has significantly helped other HIV interventions too. We’ve delivered 18 million circumcisions in the last decade, we are beginning to roll out PrEP” He added.
Warren: This is not the time to give up
The AVAC Executive Director, further said this is a critical time “we need to think about trying to get ahead of the epidemic, and if we don’t get ahead of it soon, we are going to be stuck, so money matters and it doesn’t mean blank cheques but it means responsible investments, because the dollar spent today, in any of the countries focused on HIV, if well spent for treatment, prevention it will save us money in the long term”.
Warren also offered a piece of advice to global HIV advocates not to declare success too soon since a lot has to be done. He said this may be one of the reasons why some other sectors maybe comfortable that the pandemic has been defeated which he said is not the current situation.
He also called on the global village to make a smart investment case saying “we have the largest number of young people particularly in Africa, which means we have a growing number of people at risk when it comes to HIV so if we don’t invest now, we will still have more new infections each year”.
Warren emphasized that there should be a collective responsibility to make sure that the Global Fund and PEPFAR are being supported by donors and that each and every country is recognizing the importance of the HIV and AIDS response.
The Harvard Chan School of Public Health presented an estimation of HIV expenditures looking at the source of funding and functions in 188 countries from 2000 to 2015. The results showed that of the $48 billion spent on HIV in 2015, about 62% came from domestic spending by governments and about 30% came from development assistance. In countries with high HIV prevalence, however, nearly 80% of spending came from development assistance. The presenter Annie Haakenstad looked at how the developing world, which have high burden of HIV, rely on aid saying “they still need funds to fight the pandemic”
Reacting to the development, President of the International AIDS Society and International Chair of AIDS 2018, Linda-Gail Bekker, just like Warren, also sounded worried calling on donors not to falter their support since consequences could be devastating.
"This is not the time to cut funding, we need funding more, there are HIV Prevention studies and trials going on they really need more funding and support, now is not the time to stall or pull back.” Bekker said.
Apart from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health research results, the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS-2018- found that eight of 14 donor governments reduced their spending on global HIV efforts in 2017.
These studies, highlighted in the AIDS 2018 media release, conclude that “development assistance remains a major portion of spending on critical HIV prevention and treatment programmes, especially in the hardest-hit countries”.
Impact on sun Saharan Africa
The UNAIDS in 2013 estimated that about 37.2 million people were living with HIV worldwide and 71% of this global burden was in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although the region has so far done well especially on treatment, HIV prevalence remains high with governments failing to fund HIV and AIDS projects on their own.
Sub-Saharan organizations which have been at the centre of HIV prevention and treatment look at the progress made by the region as a result of global efforts especially on resources to fight the pandemic.
Mhango: We need to create self funding for HIV/AIDS
Victor Mhango Director at Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance-CHREAA- in Malawi, told this reporter that thanks to the donor community countries like Malawi have managed to roll out different HIV and AIDS initiatives.
“The burden is too big for developing countries to handle alone…in the HIV and AIDS field the significant role played by the donor community can be felt” Mhango said.
Mhango however was quick to point out, in reacting to reports on HIV aid cut, that it is high time countries with high HIV burden started creating ways of self financing.
“We cannot rely on aid all the time. This is our problem we’ve been assisted for so many years, time has come for us to grow and fight the pandemic with our resources” He said.
Mhango further urged Sub-Saharan countries to establish local Trusts and Funds which should aim at financing HIV activities arguing that if the current trend on funding remains unchanged “the region will be worst hit, since apart from being the worst affected it relies solely on aid in almost all HIV and AIDS interventions" He said.