Latest UNAIDS treatment numbers show progress, but funding crunch is major threat
Geneva, 21 November 2011 - The growing number of averted HIV/AIDS deaths according to data
released by UNAIDS represents important progress, but the number of people put on treatment must increase
dramatically in order to reap the benefits of the new science showing that HIV treatment both saves
lives and helps prevent new infections, the international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
This will require significant additional funding for HIV treatment, yet, as the Global Fund to Fight
AIDS, TB and Malaria's Board meeting opens today in Accra, Ghana, AIDS funding has now declined
for two years in a row.
In 2011, landmark research showed that a person starting HIV treatment early is 96 percent less
likely to pass the virus on to others. This year also brought increased political commitment. The US has just
announced its goal of "turning the tide on AIDS," a declaration once unimaginable as official US policy.
Governments in June committed to reaching 15 million people with HIV treatment by 2015 with the Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria poised to agree to help pay for half of that target.
With treatment scale up now under increasing threat, MSF calls on donor and affected governments
alike to ensure this plan to roll out benefits from treatment acceleration become a reality. But the funding
needed to turn this year's scientific and political breakthroughs into increased access to treatment for
millions of people, is severely lacking, with the Global Fund now forced to skip a year of funding new
proposals for the first time since it was created in 2002.
"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," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive
Director of MSF's Access Campaign. "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 where MSF works - such as Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa - governments are seeking to
implement ambitious national HIV treatment plans by incorporating 'accelerated treatment' components such as
initiation of treatment for people at an earlier stage of the disease, immediate initiation of treatment
for HIV-positive people with HIV-negative partners; and immediate initiation of life-long treatment
for HIV-positive expectant mothers.
But without increased funding, opportunities to prevent the spread of infection are being missed and there is a real
risk of going backwards. The Global Fund's budget shortfall this year and next means ambitious country proposals to
save more lives and greatly reduce new infections cannot be funded. MSF witnesses how even existing national
treatment programs are now under threat of being severely curtailed in countries such as Zimbabwe,
Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
MSF calls on the Global Fund not to further delay, downsize, or cap its newest round of funding applications. Donors
and the Fund should raise the funding necessary to cover the costs of quality proposals, in order to enable countries
to realise priority interventions that will have the highest impact on the epidemic.
"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," said Shelagh Woods, Head of MSF's project in
rural Malawi. "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."
MSF began treating HIV/AIDS in 2000 and currently provides HIV treatment to 170,000 people in 19 countries.
In line with the new evidence, MSF has just opened a pilot project in South Africa's KwaZulu Natal province,
which has the country's highest infection rate, with an aim to reduce infections among the whole community
through testing and accelerated treatment, along with conventional prevention.
To read MSF's June 2011 report, Getting Ahead of the Wave of New Infections - Lessons for the Next Decade
of the AIDS response , visit www.msfaccess.org
Source: MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES