A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
As preparations for the world AIDS conference in Vienna get underway, international agency Oxfam has called on world leaders to take steps to provide immediate access to HIV and AIDS treatment, care and prevention for the millions of poor people who need it.
Despite world leaders promising in 2001 to make HIV and AIDS treatment, care and prevention available to all by 2010, we are still a long way from reaching that goal.
To ensure universal access, donors will need to contribute at least $20 billion to the Global Fund over the next three years. For their part, African governments will need to honor their promise to allocate at least 15% of their overall spending to health.
Oxfam spokesperson Jim Clarken said: "Despite the huge gap, G8 leaders last month pledged only an additional $5 billion for maternal and child health over the next five years and other donors promised another $2.3 billion.
"The backtracking on commitments made by African governments on tackling HIV and AIDS is also very worrying," said Clarken.
"There is no excuse not to keep these promises. Governments and donors cannot shift the consequences of the economic crisis on to the most poor and vulnerable segments of society, denying them their most basic rights."
Oxfam is calling for:
- Donors and governments to increase funding for health in line with the Action Plan presented by the UN Secretary General.
- Support for a financial sector tax which could generate crucial additional finance needed for development; and
- Full support for the patent pool by multinational pharmaceutical companies to negotiate license agreements that ensure broad access to medicines at lower costs for developing countries.
The 2010 deadline is upon us and the reality is that millions of poor people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS still do not have the treatment they were promised. If governments – from both the global North and South – do not commit additional funds, then universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care will remain an unattainable goal.
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Notes to editors
- Since 2001 HIV infections have decreased by 17%, and the number of deaths has fallen by 10%. However 48% of those who need treatment cannot access it.
- Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region worst affected by the epidemic: it has 61% of all people infected with HIV and 72% of deaths. Many countries still have laws that prevent access to services to groups such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and illegal immigrants.
- There are more than 33 million people living with HIV worldwide. 70% are in sub-Saharan Africa and an increasing proportion of them are women.
- The Global Fund to combat AIDS, TB and Malaria is estimated to have saved 4.9 million lives since its establishment; it needs US$20 billion to continue doing this with an expanded health mandate.
- The female condom is the only female-initiated method which provides protection from HIV infection and also prevents unwanted pregnancy; yet female condoms continue to be too expensive and dificult for women to access.
- UNITAID is an international facility for the purchase of drugs against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and was created to improve the availability and affordability of such medicines. One of the methods it uses is a ‘patent pool' which invites pharmaceutical companies to negotiate voluntary license agreements, allowing generic production of medicines at lower costs for developing countries.
Nicole Johnston, +27 82 468 1905, firstname.lastname@example.org