The head of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has reiterated the need for the international community to provide an additional $10 billion to help countries achieve their targets for making AIDS prevention, treatment and care programmes universally available.
“There are currently 10 million people living with HIV who are waiting for life-saving treatment. Unless we close the funding gap, millions of people will be turned away from the promise of universal access,” Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, said at the end of his first official visit to Australia yesterday.
Just weeks before the upcoming funding replenishment meeting of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Mr Sidibé discussed sustaining and enhancing investments in AIDS programmes with Peter Baxter, the head of AusAID, the Government’s aid agency.
Mr. Sidibé thanked Mr. Baxter for AusAID’s support for HIV/AIDS response programme, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, and its recent commitment to increase funding to UNAIDS by almost $900,000.
He voiced concern that that after steady and significant increases in HIV/AIDS funding, other donors might for the first time be considering not to raise contributions or even reducing funding.
In Canberra, Mr. Sidibé also met with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, Jane Halton, and the deputy head of the Office of National Assessments, Bruce Miller.
Mr Sidibé’s five-day trip to Australia began in Sydney at the Lowy Institute for International Policy where he spoke on the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and imperatives for reshaping global response.
He visited the renowned medically supervised injecting centre in the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross, the only such facility in the Southern Hemisphere. He commended the facility’s work, calling it a “pragmatic, cost-effective” model to halt HIV transmission and prevent illness and deaths among vulnerable intravenous drug users.
Mr. Sidibé was presented with an award from a coalition of organizations involved in Australia’s HIV response that recognized his personal contribution to combating HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Sidibé also attended the launch of the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights. The new research centre, which focuses on the link between human rights and public health, is a collaborative venture between scientists, lawyers, medical practitioners and academics at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.
A former judge of the Australia’s High Court, Mr. Kirby is a renowned human rights expert and was recently appointed to the new Global Commission on HIV and the Law.
Mr. Sidibé also met with Australian business leaders at the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS, which is leading the region's private sector response to HIV.