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Year 2011

UN Reports 'Extraordinary Progress' In Global Fight Against AIDS

nationalpost
30 November 2011
By Kate Kelland

The international community has made extraordinary progress in the past decade in the fight against AIDS, but a funding crisis is putting those gains at risk, the United Nations health agencies said on Wednesday.

A World Health Organization-led report said the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS and now infects about 34 million people around the world has proven a "formidable challenge" for scientists and public health experts.

"But the tide is turning," it added. "The tools to achieve an AIDS-free generation are in our hands."

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A severe funding crisis at the world's largest backer of the fight against AIDS and a decline in international donor money to battle the disease is dampening optimism in the HIV/AIDS community about an eventual end to the pandemic.

Annual funding for HIV/AIDS programs fell to $15 billion in 2010 from $15.9 billion in 2009, well below the estimated $22 billion to $24 billion the U.N. agencies say is needed by 2015 to pay for a comprehensive, effective global response.

The public-private Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world's largest financial backer of HIV treatment and prevention programm, said last week it was cancelling new grants for countries battling these diseases and would make no new funding available until 2014.

"Just as the world is making huge strides in the fight against HIV and AIDS, the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation, where no children are born with HIV, will not be possible unless the Global Fund is able to continue scaling up its work," said Patrick Watt, Save the Children's global campaign director.

"With the main funding body…now out of cash, there is a serious crisis," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer of the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontires. "It's like a car going full speed has suddenly run out of gas."

In an interview with Reuters as the U.N agencies' report was released, Gottfried Hirnschall, the WHO's director for HIV/AIDS, said progress in cutting the number of new HIV infections and dramatically increasing access to life-saving AIDS drugs made this a critical time in the battle.

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