BUENOS AIRES, Argentina--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization operating in 39 countries, is currently attending the Civil 20 – a civil society engagement group that provides policy recommendations to G20 leaders.
The Civil 20 convenes April 4-5 in Buenos Aires and is the first step in preparing for the August C20 summit where the world’s leading civil society organizations will draft a declaration of priorities and recommendations on various aspects of global development, including health, to be presented to the G20 in November.
HIV/AIDS is but one of several urgent health issues currently being placed on the back burner by governments. In response, AHF has drafted a statement to C20 and G20 leaders calling for them to act now and recommending a way ahead for the most pressing challenges in the realm of global public health. Immediate measures are critical to avoid losing precious progress made thus far in the fight against HIV, as well as an irrevocably dismal future overall if the current state of affairs remains unchanged.
The G20 has more power to make an impact on international development than any other global body. Collectively, the G20 accounts for 85% of the gross world product, 80% of world trade and approximately half of the world land area. Because of its economic power and political influence, health policies advanced by the G20 can set the course for the rest of the world in tackling existing and emerging global health threats.
Under the presidency of Argentina, G20 leaders are set to convene at the end of November 2018 in Buenos Aires. This summit is an opportunity for world leaders to reaffirm their commitment to end the AIDS epidemic and address related global public health challenges.
The Government of Argentina has outlined the main priority points for its presidency of the G20, with the primary focus on addressing the social and economic divide that continues to widen with the accelerating pace of technological innovation and automation. This problem certainly deserves attention, but it is important to note that the digital divide is exacerbated by more fundamental, unresolved issues than mere access to the latest technologies and the know-how needed for their development and use.
Annually, one million women, children and men die of AIDS-related causes — an equivalent of a large city being wiped out every single year by a chronic disease that is now treatable and preventable. From a socioeconomic standpoint, the loss of life on this scale, particularly among people in the prime of their lives, represents the squandering of priceless human potential to innovate, build communities, raise families and improve the world in numerous other facets of human existence.
While AIDS appears in the headlines much less frequently today, the magnitude of its continued impact is staggering. According to the latest available estimates, 30.8 million to 43 million people are living with HIV globally, with approximately 1.8 million people getting newly infected annually.1 Many in that statistic are unaware of their status and thus unable to take the necessary steps to prevent further transmission. Despite advances in treatment and prevention methods, the rate of new infections has declined by only 11% since 2010 — far too slowly to bring AIDS under control.
At the same time, donor-government disbursements to low- and middle-income countries for fighting AIDS have steadily declined to $7 billion in 2016 after peaking at $8.6 billion in 2014. Combined funding from governments and domestic sources has remained virtually flat since 2012 at an annual average of roughly $19 billion.2
As evidenced by the epidemiological and financial figures, the world appears to be stuck in place with the AIDS response. Unless steps are taken to reinvigorate and fully fund the most pressing global public health priorities, the global economic and technological divide will continue to grow, amplifying the risk of worldwide instability, social unrest and diminished economic development.
With this in mind, as part of the dialogue between the C20 and G20, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) calls on the member state representatives to agree upon and implement concrete steps to address the following pressing global public health challenges:
Declining global health funding
G20 countries should increase contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and more broadly, to call for strong bilateral and multilateral commitments to foreign aid for public health. The decline in global health funding should not be the new normal.
Unaffordable drug pricing and patent monopolies
In many countries with a history of patent opposition and strong support for generic medicines, access to affordable drugs is under threat by patent monopolies. The G20 should commit to protecting the right of all countries to invoke the TRIPS flexibilities and support the removal of trade barriers for the importation and domestic production of essential medicines in all middle- and low-income countries.
Slow implementation of the Test and Treat strategy
In the absence of an effective cure or vaccine for HIV, the most effective way to control the AIDS epidemic is to provide HIV testing and treatment services to as many people as possible. Test and Treat has been broadly adopted, but implementation is lagging behind, particularly on testing.
Antimicrobial resistance poses a tremendous threat to global public health. With the emergence of many drug-resistant pathogens such as gonorrhea, tuberculosis and others, the risk of unstoppable pandemics is constantly growing. The world must address this problem by significantly increasing investment in research and outbreak preparedness.
Neglected tropical diseases
As the 2014 Ebola outbreak showed, we ignore neglected tropical diseases at our peril. The cost of being unprepared for an inevitable outbreak in an interconnected world could mean millions of lives lost, severe disruptions to global travel and trade, and lasting costs of rebuilding affected communities.
G20 countries account for trillions of dollars in economic activity every year. In contrast, successful implementation of the intervention needed to address the urgent public health challenges outlined above would require only a minimal investment of several additional billions to what is already being allocated — a modest sum that would pay for itself and yield substantial benefits to the world economy in terms of capital, reduced economic disruptions and a healthier world for everyone.
Because this is an investment worth making, we call on the G20, under the leadership of Argentina, to incorporate commitments that address these challenges into the discussion at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November and subsequently to include them in the summit declaration.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 889,000 individuals in 39 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us @aidshealthcare.
1 UNAIDS Fact Sheet 2016, http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet
2 Kaiser Family Foundation report on Donor Government Disbursements for HIV in 2016, https://www.kff.org/slideshow/international-aids-assistance/