World Aids Day:

World Aids Day: Victory is within reach, but cuts could spoil it all

Just as Obama announces 'the beginning of the end' for Aids, funding is being slashed. Peter Popham reports on a make-or-break moment

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

Underlining America's bipartisan response to the challenge, the US President will be joined on World Aids Day by two of his predecessors in insisting that the US will continue to lead the world in tackling the disease. Bill Clinton will participate by phone, while George W Bush will speak from Tanzania alongside the country's President, Jakaya Kikwete.

But 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 amid global financial strife. On Tuesday, George Osborne said the UK would "stick by its commitment to the poorest people in the world" by continuing to devote 0.7 per cent of gross national income to aid – but as this has fallen, that amounts to a cut of £1.164bn in the budget over the next three years.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, was challenged last night to ringfence help for HIV/Aids prevention work overseas after the Chancellor's decision to cut aid spending. 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 means that fresh applications will not be accepted until 2014. It will also lead to dwindling stockpiles of the crucial drugs in many of the countries worst affected by the disease.

"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 for treatment scale-up until 2014."

The Global Fund, part public and part private, is the single largest donor for HIV funding, providing more than 70 per cent of the money for antiretroviral drugs in developing nations. The drugs, which first came into use in the 1990s, have transformed the prospects of those with HIV, giving them the hope of leading normal lives with tolerable side-effects for decades. Most of them will never fully develop Aids.

The impact of HIV/Aids has always been most devastating in sub-Saharan Africa. Years of work by the Global Fund in collaboration with agencies such as MSF have greatly reduced the incidence of HIV, but in South Africa an estimated 5.7 million people are living with the virus, and the number of new infections continues to outstrip the numbers being treated.

Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent evocation of "an end to Aids in this generation", those countries now expect the numbers of sufferers dying to surge. In Zimbabwe, a recent study found that Aids-related deaths in Harare and Bulawayo had declined by 19 per cent after access to antiretroviral drugs was expanded, but now the country fears a reversal. Faizel Tezera, head of the local operation of MSF, told Reuters: "It is a disaster for Zimbabwe as a country. More than 86,000 people will be left without treatment and about 5,000 children will be affected."

In Malawi 70,000 new infections are expected next year, and because there will be no funding available for drugs, sufferers risk developing the full and untreatable version of the disease. "It is catastrophic for our nations, especially women and children," said Nokhwezi Haboyi, of the South African lobby group Treatment Action Campaign.

Aids first exploded into public consciousness in 1981, after being identified in a cluster of five gay men in Los Angeles. What rapidly became known in the popular media as the "gay plague" had jumped the species barrier from chimpanzees decades before. A massive international research effort led to the identification of the virus responsible.

Norman Fowler, Health Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, launched Britain's first, taboo-busting campaign "Don't die of ignorance", while through Europe and beyond the inhibitions connected with the name and function of the condom were blown apart.

Despite a massive research effort, no vaccine to immunise against HIV has yet been developed. Drugs such as AZT helped to impede the development of the disease, but had severe side-effects.

It was only with the launch of a new generation of antiretroviral drugs that people who had expected to die in their twenties and thirties found that they were now likely to live into their sixties.

* World Aids Day: Victory within reach – but cuts could spoil it all
* New 'Lite' approach could save more lives with less money
* Hillary Clinton: We must not waste this historic opportunity
* Elton John on the streets with Ukraine's lost generation
* Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: Mothers, babies and HIV
* Jeffrey Sachs: Politicians just don't care enough to tackle this scourge
* Jeremy Laurance: States need to back up fine words with hard cash if great leap forward is not to be wasted
* Leading article: Belt-tightening can't apply to Aids
* Aids under the lens
* World Aids Day: Thirty-four million reasons to act
* Barack Obama: 'We can beat this disease'

 

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Development Engineer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of fl...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

    £12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

    £12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders