AIDS: End in sight but funding cuts will cost lives

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Thirty years after Aids first surfaced, Barack Obama is today expected to declare "the beginning of the end" of the disease thanks to dramatic results achieved by antiretroviral drugs.

However, fatally undermining the claim that the disease is on the way out is the decision by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria to call off its latest funding round.

Countries around the world are slashing their aid budgets amidst global financial strife. On Tuesday, George Osborne said the UK "will stick by its commitment to the poorest people in the world" by continuing to devote 0.7 per cent of national income to aid – but with income falling, that amounts to a cut of £1.2bn over the next three years.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, was challenged last night to ring-fence help for HIV/Aids prevention work overseas. Adrian Lovett, Europe director of the anti-poverty group One, said: "This must not result in life-saving HIV programmes being put at risk and Andrew Mitchell must ensure that they are protected."

The cancellation of the 11th annual round of funding for the Global Fund means that fresh applications will not be accepted until 2014. It will lead to dwindling stockpiles of the drugs in many of the countries worst affected.

The Global Fund is the single largest donor for HIV funding, providing more than 70 per cent of the money for antiretroviral drugs in developing nations.

"There is a serious crisis," said Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director of the Access campaign of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). "It's like a car going full speed that has suddenly run out of petrol. It is simply unacceptable that there is currently no plan to support countries until 2014."

Years of work by the Global Fund in collaboration with international agencies such as MSF have greatly reduced the incidence of HIV, but in South Africa an estimated 5.7 million people are still living with HIV, and the number of new infections continues to outstrip the numbers being treated.


An Aids-free generation is in reach, Hillary Clinton, page 15

Special i reports, pages 34-38