AIDS Treatement Scale-Up Efforts Threatened: Donor Countries Fail to Fill the Funding Gap

Paris, 16 July 2003 - A key opportunity to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has been missed: donor countries have failed to muster up enough funding to seriously tackle these killer diseases in developing countries. At a Paris meeting today sponsored by the French Government and Global Fund it became clear that a 50% deficit for the third, October 2003 funding round has not been filled by new donations. The fund currently has access to only about US$450 million to cover projects that will need between US$800 million a US$1 billion.

Unless the Global Fund is replenished, countries' proposals to provide life-saving treatment for people suffering from AIDS, TB or malaria will be refused or postponed.

Small-scale AIDS treatment projects run by MSF and others in developing countries have long proven that antiretroviral (ARV) treatment is possible in resource-poor settings. Countries are beginning to take first steps towards expanding access to ARVs and some are making serious efforts to scale up. These programs will remain the exception rather the rule if the international community doesn't live up to its promises and commitments to fund planned programmes.

Invited by the Malawian Ministry of Health, MSF and other groups providing ARV treatment in Malawi have been involved in drafting the national treatment programme - one of the national proposals sent to the Global Fund. "The plan is well-thought out, sound and realistic. Depending on the price of the drugs used, the Malawian government aims to get 25,000 to 50,000 patients on treatment by 2007," said Dr Nicolas Durier from the MSF ARV programme in the Chiradzulu district in southern Malawi, counting some 800 patients at present.

"If the necessary Global Fund money doesn't come through, up to 50,000 Malawians living with HIV/AIDS will be left to their own devices, without hope of their lives being extended. Turning down the funding will also deliver a fatal blow to the government's ability to tackle the AIDS pandemic in a responsible manner," Dr Durier continued. A total of 800'000 Malawians are currently living with HIV/AIDS.

"We have so far hailed the Global Fund as one of the few global initiatives with the potential to start addressing the AIDS crisis seriously," said Dr Bernard Pécoul, director of MSF's campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. "Everyone agrees that treatment is a key component in responding to the AIDS pandemic. But as long as the only cash on the table to support concrete, technically viable proposals such as those received by the Global Fund is a fraction of the estimated need, there is no way countries can do what everyone wants them to do: treat their people."