Boost in funds needed to fight AIDS: UN

ZURICH (Reuters) - Global AIDS funding needs to be quadrupled to fight the epidemic’s spread in the developing world, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

A 17-year old poses for a portrait in his home in Senegal's capital Dakar, June 22, 2007. Global AIDS funding needs to be quadrupled to fight the epidemic's spread in the developing world, the United Nations said on Wednesday. REUTERS/ Finbarr O'Reilly

UNAIDS, a U.N. agency, called for between $32 billion and $51 billion to secure universal access to HIV/AIDS treatments by 2010 for the low- and middle-income countries most in need.

“We are simply not spending enough or doing enough. The world did not act early enough and we are now paying the price,” UNAIDS deputy executive director Michel Sidibe told reporters.

The figures were published in a UNAIDS resource report, the latest assessment of the financial means needed to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in 132 low- and middle-income nations.

According to the World Health Organization, AIDS was the leading cause of death globally in men and women aged between 15 and 59 in 2002. More than 70 percent of people in need did not have access to life-extending antiretroviral drugs in 2006.

This year, around $10 billion in funds from public and private sources was available to fund the fight against the disease. UNAIDS said more was needed.

“We are looking at quadrupling current available resources,” Paul De Lay, director of the UNAIDS evidence, monitoring and policy department, told reporters on a conference call.

A previous target of reaching 3 million patients with antiretroviral drug treatments by 2005 failed.

At current rates of increase, only 4.6 million patients would have access to drugs by 2010, rising to 8 million by 2015. That would be less than half those who need it, UNAIDS said.

Universal access by 2010 would provide treatment for 14 million people, but would come at a price. By 2015, that approach would need $45 billion to $63 billion, De Lay said.

De Lay called the 2010 universal access goal an ambitious scenario and said that there could be a “second approach” to achieving universal access to AIDS and HIV treatment.

This would involve individual countries setting their own timeline for achieving universal access. De Lay said all 132 countries would reach this goal by 2015.

“The second phase approach is what most countries are saying they can do,” he said. This would require $41 billion to $58 billion.

In addition to more medicine, UNAIDS said new methods of intervention, or ways of reducing the spread of the disease, could be deployed, including male circumcision.