In 2005, the leaders of the world’s richest countries (the G8) agreed to provide universal access to anti-AIDS medications by 2010, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 10 million people are still awaiting treatment. That is two thirds of the people who need the treatment.
At the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, at the beginning of November, HIV/Aids activists were there to remind them, including the (pictured) diva Miss Promesses (actually Nicolas Denis, Manager of International Advocacy at the French organization Aides). The G20 is the European Union and 19 of the most important industrialized and developing economies.
The character is meant to immitate the attitude of the rich countries, says Aides:
Perched on her high heels, amused and unconscious, she throws explicit and symbolic signs on the ground. One by one, these promises fail on the red carpet. At the same time, activists stretch on the floor. Each of them bears on his t-shirt the name of a poor country in need of anti-AIDS funding; and “broken promises kill!”
According to Aides, 7,000 people die of AIDS each day and numerous studies show that access to treatment is a good investment for the future.
A study published in The Lancet in June shows that if $22 billion were spent annually till 2020 on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, $30 billion in extra resources would flow annually to developing countries due to saved lives and reduced infections.
The French National AIDS Council has published a “Memorandum Equivalent to an Opinion” recommending that financial transactions be taxed to fund the battle against AIDS. In a news release, the Council explains why these innovative investments are necessary:
For the first time in the history of the fight against HIV/AIDS, the opportunity to curb the spread of the global AIDS epidemic has been shown to exist. Indeed, we now know that treating infected people significantly reduces the risk of virus transmission.
Ensuring the widest possible access to screening and treatment for those who need it is the best way to stem the spread of the epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, massive development of prevention, screening and treatment access programs could prevent half of the 62 million new infections predicted for the 2005 to 2015 period.
But at the G20, the AIDS pandemic was overshadowed by the Greek referendum and Euro crisis. The G20’s final declaration made no mention of HIV/AIDS and merely acknowledged the initiatives in some countries for a tax on financial transactions.
However, according to Oxfam, a tax on financial transactions to fund international development (popularly called the “Robin Hood Tax”) gained additional support at the G20, and is now supported by Argentina, Brazil, Ethiopia, France, Germany, South Africa and Spain.
Kouami Goudo, an HIV/Aids activist from the African country of Benin who demonstrated with the French group, said:
[The rich] have made promises they have not held, we have come to remind them of these commitments!
International HIV/AIDS funding, particularly that from the US, has been controversial for allowing ideology to trump science, such as in funding abstinence programs and ignoring some populations.
According to David Kuria, the spokesperson of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), more than 33% of all new infections in Kenya are attributable to under-served sub-populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers.
In May, the Obama administration announced changes. The Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) released new guidance for the massive US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a US $48 billion dollar program started by George Bush.
In August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands announced a massive, world-first program so that gay men, people who use drugs and sex workers in 16 countries can get easier access to information, condoms, antiretroviral treatment and care.
Image source AIDES