The international community risks losing the global battle against HIV/AIDS unless funding for projects to stem the spread of the disease and keep those infected healthy, especially in Africa, is sustained and increased, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned.
“In our global war on AIDS, the international community is on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Mr. Ban wrote in an op-ed published in the Austin American-Statesman yesterday.
He said funding was drying up and some donors were threatening to cap their support as a result of the global economic recession, a development that could leave millions of those living with AIDS to their fate. Other donors have been shifting their support to other diseases they feel are cheaper to treat and control.
“At a time when we should be scaling up to meet the AIDS challenge, in other words, we are scaling back,” the Secretary-General wrote.
He recounted a moving experience he had during a recent trip to Uganda when he met a group of young people who are living healthy lives despite being infected with HIV/AIDS because they are beneficiaries of a treatment programme that has received generous funding from the United States and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“We are beautiful people; Laugh and dance in harmony,” the group, ranging in age from eight to 28, sang as they danced to an African drum rhythm.
External support has enabled Uganda to scale up the number of HIV-infected people receiving anti-retroviral treatment from 10,000 a decade ago to 200,000 now.
Across Africa, an estimated seven million people who should be receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS are not. Worldwide, the figure is 10 million, Mr. Ban wrote.
He said the doctor who runs the Ugandan treatment clinic he visited, Peter Mugyenyi, told him that lack of resources had forced him to begin to make the difficult decision of putting people in need of treatment on the waiting list.
“How do you choose, after, all, to treat a young girl but not her little brother? How do you turn away a pregnant mother, sitting with her children, crying for help?” the Secretary-General wrote.
“At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, in July, I hope the international community will rally around UNAIDS’ [UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS] launch of Treatment 2.0 — the next generation of HIV treatment, which must be more affordable, more effective and accessible to all. As chairman of this year's replenishment of the Global Fund, I urge all donors to see to it that countries such as Uganda get the support they need, so that Dr. Mugyenyi need not make those difficult choices.
“Yes, times are hard. That is all the more reason to act out of compassion and with generosity,” he added.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, wrote in an op-ed published yesterday in The New Vision (Uganda), that the football World Cup currently taking place in South Africa provides a good opportunity to talk about HIV for two reasons.
“First, a celebrated sporting event such as the World Cup can encourage the spread of HIV through the combination of alcohol and unsafe sex,” he stated.
“Second, almost 80 babies are born with HIV during the 90 minutes it takes to play a football match. This translates into 430,000 babies infected each year. Because we have the means to stop this tragedy, we must act today.”
Football stars and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassadors Emmanuel Adebayor of Togo and Michael Ballack of Germany have joined forces with the agency to launch a global campaign to prevent babies from becoming infected with HIV.
The campaign aims to mobilize the football community to “give AIDS the red card” and eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission between now and 2014, when the next World Cup is played in Brazil.
“As the football fever spreads across the globe, let’s do everything we can to stop the spread of HIV. We have no excuse,” said Mr. Sidibé.