AIDS 2016: Fund decline, incidence rise present clear, current threats to HIV services, research, “ending AIDS,” response watchers say

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Science Speaks is covering the 21rst International AIDS Conference this week live from Durban, South Africa, with breaking news, updates and analysis of new research findings, evidence-based responses, and community action for global access to HIV treatment and prevention.

Science Speaks is covering the 21rst International AIDS Conference this week live from Durban, South Africa, with breaking news, updates and analysis of new research findings, evidence-based responses, and community action for global access to HIV treatment and prevention.

DURBAN, South Africa – Global funding for HIV responses has declined in real numbers and in impact potential for the first time in five years, researchers and advocates told reporters here Tuesday, injecting reality into an ambition focused conference.

The 13 percent drop in international donor funding from 2014 to 2015 means less money to support effective responses to HIV among prisoners, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender women, as well as others ignored and neglected by their own governments, Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP noted.

It is a significant and disappointing turn for HIV response advocates who have become used to flat-funding in recent years, threatening goals to dramatically lower infection rates over the next four years, IAS President Dr. Chris Beyrer said.

IMG_1307The decline in funding from the world’s largest donor, the United States, he said, is not the result of the now-accustomed partisan gridlock that has stalled funding for other endeavors, including a response to the threat of Zika. Bipartisan support for U.S. HIV responses has been strong and consistent he said, culminating in the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief nearly three years ago when Congress agreed on little else.

“It’s not a partisan threat, it is a generational threat,” he said, noting that many of PEPFAR’s original architects have left Congress, and some of have died. “We have to continually re-engage with leadership and with new leadership,” he said.

The funding discussion was followed by more disquieting news as researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation unveiled data from the Global Burden of Disease network showing that rates of new infection continue to challenge long-term progress against the pandemic.

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