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Press Release

UNAIDS Calls on G8 for Massive Increase in Resources to Fight AIDS

July 20, 2000

Geneva -- The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today called on the G8 group of wealthy countries attending the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit Meeting 2000 to show resolve and leadership on AIDS by radically stepping up their spending to fight the disease.

"In sub-Saharan Africa alone, we need a minimum of US$ 3 billion a year if we are to turn back the tide of the epidemic, but we are spending only a tenth of that," said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "For the past two weeks, the world's eyes have been focused on AIDS. Rich countries can rewrite the history of the epidemic by taking a decisive stand against AIDS and committing more resources to fighting it."

The call comes in the aftermath of the XIII International AIDS Conference that closed on Friday in Durban and the resolution adopted this week by the UN Security Council reiterating its concern about the spread of HIV/AIDS and drawing attention to the risk posed by an unchecked epidemic to stability and security.

"There are already encouraging indications," Dr Piot added. "Some G8 countries have taken a decision to step up their commitments to fighting AIDS. But this is not enough. Last year, 5.4 million people were newly infected with HIV. The latest figures show that 34.3 million people worldwide are now living with HIV. Barring a miracle, most of them will die within a decade or so. We cannot and we will not turn our backs on these millions."

In several of the worst-affected African countries, resources freed by debt relief are already being rechannelled into AIDS. While this is a promising start, UNAIDS supports more widespread efforts to use the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC), announced at last year's G8 meeting in Cologne, Germany, to boost funding for national AIDS efforts. At Durban, Dr. Piot called on governments in the south to invest more resources in AIDS, and on governments in the north to greatly increase their contributions to fight AIDS in the developing world.

About 95% of HIV-infected people live in developing countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, African governments together owe more than US$ 230 billion in debt, with repayments costing Africa a staggering US$ 15 billion each year -- the equivalent of 5% of the region's income and about 15% of its export earnings.

HIV/AIDS has single-handedly caused a profound reversal of development gains made over the past three decades in a number of countries, especially in Africa. Studies presented in Durban last week show that countries with the highest number of HIV-infected persons stand to lose up to a fifth of their economic output because of AIDS over the next ten years. Therefore, UNAIDS says, spending the "savings" from debt relief on effective programmes to prevent the spread of HIV makes sound economic sense.

In addition to debt relief, UNAIDS has called for making sure the basic tools of prevention and care are available in the neediest countries. In many instances, basic health systems exist but there are few or no commodities to distribute, including condoms, testing kits, and drugs for both prevention and care.

In a letter to the G8 leaders earlier this month, UNAIDS urged wealthy countries to agree that no African country should be unable to mount prevention campaigns or provide basic care for its population because of lack of basic commodities. It called on G8 countries to make available an additional US$ 1.5 billion a year to provide and distribute HIV/AIDS commodities. UNAIDS further urged the G8 to support accelerated action in Africa under the framework of the International Partnership Against AIDS in Africa negotiated by governments, the UN, donors, civil society and the private sector.

The call for broader and increased action on HIV/AIDS is part of a wider UN effort to intensify G8 action against communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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