Aids cases outpace rise in those treated, says ONE report

International funding stagnates, though Ireland singled out for praise in report

Volunteers light lamps on a red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV/Aids, on the banks of the Ganges in India. Photograph: Bikas Das/AP

Volunteers light lamps on a red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV/Aids, on the banks of the Ganges in India. Photograph: Bikas Das/AP

 

Growing complacency and donor fatigue threaten to derail progress in the global fight against HIV/Aids, the advocacy group ONE has said.

In its latest annual Aids report, the organisation said that despite significant progress the world remained on “unsteady ground”, approaching but not yet past the halfway mark in the effort to fight Aids as an epidemic.

It noted that international funding had largely stagnated between 2013 and 2014 but singled Ireland out for praise for its work in the area.

Some 1.9 million people began antiretroviral treatment last year, bringing the total number of people on treatment to 14.9 million by the end of 2014. However, two million others became newly infected with HIV in the same year, outpacing the growth in access to treatment.

“The world has therefore still not reached the tipping point, where the number of people added to antiretrovirals surpasses the number of people newly infected with HIV,” the report stated.

While the development of more sophisticated antiretrovirals has meant an Aids diagnosis no longer needs to be an automatic death sentence, the inflection remains deadly. About 1.2 million people – more than 3,200 every day – died from Aids-related illnesses last year.

Overall, just 40 per cent of the 37 million people in the world who live with HIV/Aids are currently able to access treatment and millions of people are still becoming infected each year.

“The notion of Aids as an urgent, pressing issue of global concern has faded from news headlines and the hallways of governments, leaving many citizens to believe that the disease has already been tackled or that the world has moved on. Yet, of course, this notion could not be further from reality,” the report states.

Estimates for what it will cost to control the Aids epidemic have risen since a 2011 international declaration that called for $22-$24 billion in spending by 2015. The UN aids agency now estimates that “fast-tracking” the Aids response to speed up progress against the disease in low- and middle-income countries will require nearly $32 billion annually by 2020.

To reach that target, the world would need to marshal an extra $2 billion each year between now and the end of 2020. However, bilateral and multilateral contributions by leading western governments barely increased between 2013 and 2014, rising slightly from $8.49 billion to $8.64 billion.

Much of this marginal increase was due to greater spending by the UK in 2014. Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway also increased their financing last year, while funding from Germany and the United States remained almost flat.

Overall, international funding on Aids remains concentrated among just a few donors. In 2014, about 87 per cent of global assistance came from only five donors: the UK, the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The US alone contributed about two-thirds of all funding.

Describing Ireland as the “hardest worker” among rich donors, the report said the country was 13th in the world in its contribution to HIV/Aids despite ranking 44th among countries in nominal GDP.

Ireland’s funding for HIV/Aids declined only slightly between 2013 and 2014 despite proportionately deeper cuts to broader development assistance. “There is reason to believe that Ireland will continue to be a meaningful provider of HIV/AIDS funding to low-resource settings,” according to the report.

ONE, which was cofounded by the singer Bono, draws on funding from foundations, philanthropists and companies to campaign for an end to extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.