July 25, 2018 | Funding the Fight


At International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, Experts Warn of Increasing AIDS Deaths and Detail New Evidence of a Global AIDS Response Sorely Off Track After Years of Insufficient Funding

Brittany Herrick (Health GAP): 1 760-964-8704| brittany@healthgap.org

New Data Prove that Powerful HIV Treatment and Prevention Tools Are Not Reaching Enough People Due to a Lack of Funding, Leaving Millions More to Die Unnecessarily While Waiting for Life-Saving Services

Video coverage of the press conference available here.

(Amsterdam)––During a press conference on the Future of HIV Funding at the 2018 International AIDS Conference, activists, researchers, and policymakers warned of a global AIDS response that is sorely off track, detailing new evidence of the deadly consequences of years of insufficient funding.

“Civil society groups have been warning of the deadly impact of resource scarcity, particularly among communities at highest risk of HIV. This new data is unequivocal: rapid funding increases are needed in order to serve people living with HIV who are currently left waiting for life-saving services. Until then, we are essentially allowing millions more to die unnecessarily,” said Maureen Milanga, Associate Director, International Policy and Advocacy, Health GAP.

Other speakers at the press conference included Jennifer Kates, Vice President and Director, Global Health & HIV Policy Kaiser Family Foundation; Annie Haakenstad, Researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington; John Stover, Director of Modeling and Analysis, Avenir Health; and Deepak Mattur, UNAIDS, Geneva, Switzerland.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation/UNAIDS analysis reveals that 13 out of 16 donor countries have cut their global AIDS funding contributions from levels three years before. PEPFAR has been flat funded by the U.S. for 7 years and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) requires a major increase in funding for its Sixth Replenishment (covering 2020-2022), after having been virtually flat funded for the previous two Replenishment cycles.

These funding discrepancies come despite the fact that powerful HIV treatment and prevention tools exist and the science proves that no one should have to die of AIDS, the latest evidence shows exactly what activists and other experts have warned of: an insufficient global AIDS response that leaves people with HIV without access the life-saving services they need.

New data from UNAIDS and others show the deadly consequences of a global AIDS response that is scaling up far too slowly, rather than acting boldly to achieve the Fast Track goals the international community set in 2016:

  • Progress to reduce mortality rates has stalled, with nearly 1 million people dying of AIDS-related causes last year instead of the achievable Fast Track goal of no more than 769,000 deaths per year. Furthermore, AIDS-related deaths have stopped decreasing among men over 15 in sub-Saharan Africa—a critical demographic for staunching the regions epidemics.
  • In 2017, 2.3 million people were enrolled on treatment, roughly the same increase seen the year prior. According to UNAIDS, the world will miss its 2020 global treatment target unless it accelerates treatment scale-up with a five-fold increase in the current pace.
  • People at greatest risk of HIV are being denied life-saving services. In Mozambique, due to a lack of funding for the PEPFAR program, the highly effective DREAMS program to prevent HIV infections among girls and young women is only operating in 6 of 128 districts and will only expand to 2 additional districts next year. In Zimbabwe, DREAMS is only operating in 6 out of 59 Districts, and in those locations only 50% of young women at risk of HIV have been reached.

The global AIDS response is profoundly off track, but a life-saving reset is well within our reach. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) recently proposed a $50 million increase in U.S. funding for the global response in fiscal year 2019. Though the U.S. budget is not yet final, there are optimistic signs that a funding increase is on the horizon, despite repeated efforts by President Trump to slash global AIDS funding. A $50 million increase is much less than the robust funding increase that is required to put the response on track, but even a small increase would explode the myth that people with HIV need to pay the price for Trump’s misguided budgetary goals.

Outside of the U.S., the international community must also step up to overcome the challenges portrayed in the new data. According to UNAIDS, $5.4 billion in additional funding is needed by 2020 to put the global response on track.

“The AIDS epidemic is still growing, more people are living with HIV, but international funding for the HIV response is standing still or falling,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. “This is a recipe for failure. This new data proves what we have long thought to be true – the AIDS epidemic will not end without an immediate surge in funding. Not enough people are on treatment, and onward transmission continues to all but wipe away the gains made in preventing new infections. Epidemiologically, it will be impossible to get ahead of the curve without additional resources. Until then, people with HIV will continue to unfairly pay the price.”