by Thalif Deen
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS --
is spreading throughout the world at a
rate three times faster than funding for ways to combat the killer disease,
according to the United Nations.
Between 1990 and 1997, the number of people infected with the AIDS virus more than tripled -- from about 9.8 million to 30.3 million. But total annual funding to fight the deadly disease rose from $165 million to $273 million, UN figures reveal.
"Twenty years into the epidemic, it is alarming that funding against AIDS is not keeping pace with the spread of the disease," complains Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the joint UN Program against acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Piot says the AIDS epidemic -- "the single greatest threat to global development today" -- already has infected 47 million people and grows by nearly 6 million new infections annually.
Weighed against the global catastrophe of the epidemic, the level of spending against the disease around the world is minimal, Piot notes.
A new study by UNAIDS, in collaboration with the Harvard University School of Public Health, examines donor spending on national, regional and international efforts to fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes the disease.
Among industrial nations, the United States in now the largest funder of international AIDS programming, contributing $137.5 million in 1996 and $135.2 million in 1997. But when AIDS funding is broken down as a proportion of gross national product (GNP), the Netherlands and Norway rank first and second, respectively.
The study points out that the amount allocated for HIV/AIDS has remained small -- less than one percent of donor countries' annual ODA budgets.
"Donor nations must realize that their substantial investments toward improving conditions in developing countries will be effectively obliterated unless more is invested in fighting AIDS," says Piot.
to UNAIDS, 95 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are in
developing countries. And in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa -- home to
the majority of people living with the virus -- AIDS is reducing life
expectancy and increasing child mortality to rates not seen since the 1950s.
The study says that fewer than half of the donors studied considered the severity of the epidemic as one of the criteria for allocating resources to HIV/AIDS activities.
Only Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, the UK and the U.S. indicated that this criterion was taken into consideration for their allocation of funding for HIV/AIDS.
The study also highlights the fact that countries need both political and financial capital to mount effective anti-AIDS programmes.
In Uganda and Thailand, for example, the amounts earmarked to fight the disease -- $37.5 million and $78.5 million respectively -- were far greater than the amounts reported by other countries in the two regions.
Nigeria has more than twice as many people infected with HIV as Uganda, yet the Nigerians spent less than $4 million compared with Uganda's $37.5 million.
Similarly, in Asia, Burma reported spending less than other countries in the region, even though its epidemic is one of the most severe in the region.
According to UNAIDS, the disease is steadily declining in rich industrialized nations while it is spreading with rapid intensity in the world's poorer nations.
The growing gap between the developed and developing world concerns not only the scale of HIV spread but also mortality from AIDS. In North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, newly-available anti-retroviral drugs are reducing the speed at which HIV-infected people develop AIDS.
The decline is greatest in countries in which infection has been concentrated in homosexual men, in whom HIV rates began dropping five to 10 years earlier.
"This shows that the decline in AIDS cases is often the combined result of better prevention and better treatment," UNAIDS says.
June 28, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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