Money worries, “broken promises” at AIDS conference

VIENNA, (Reuters) – The United Nations and the  world’s largest backer of programmes against HIV/AIDS said yesterday they feared wealthy donor nations may cut funding to  fight the disease because of global recession.

Speaking at the start of an international gathering of some  20,000 AIDS activists, scientists and HIV patients in Vienna,  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised progress made against  the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but  said this could be jeopardised if governments trimmed budgets.

“Some governments are cutting back on their response to  AIDS. This should be a cause for great concern to us all,” he  told the conference via videolink from New York.

Michel Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,  Tuberculosis and Malaria said it needed up to $20 billion in the  next three years to sustain progress.

“I am hugely afraid. I am very concerned,” he told reporters  at the Vienna conference. “Because of the (global financial)  crisis … because of the competing priorities.”

“I hear of many governments cutting official development  aid, but I hear other governments saying that despite cuts in  other areas, foreign assistance will remain — and I also hear  other governments with good news. It is very up and down.”

As he spoke, hundreds of protesters marched through the  conference centre demanding that rich nations deliver on their  promise that all those in needs of AIDS drugs should get them.

The Global Fund, set up in 2001, raises donor money every  three years and in 2007 secured $10 billion for the 2008-2010  period. The next replenishment meeting is on October 5 in New  York and cover the years 2011 to 2013.

“I can’t believe we will get less, and I can’t believe we  will be flatlining, but the question is how much more we will  get than we got in 2007,” Kazatchkine said.

A report published at the conference by the Joint United  Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) found that overall  support for global AIDS effort from donor nations flattened out  last year in the midst of global economic crisis.

In 2009, the Group of Eight leading wealthy nations, the European Commission and other donor governments provided $7.6  billion for AIDS relief in developing nations, compared with  $7.7 billion disbursed in 2008, it said.

The AIDS virus has infected 33.4 million people — many of  them in Africa — and is transmitted during sex, in blood and on  needles and in breast milk. It gradually wears down the immune  system and can take years to cause symptoms. It has killed 25  million people since the early 1980s.

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