Follow the money: Is HIV/AIDS fading away?
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/12/12
Trying to predict what might bring an end to the HIV/AIDS scandal, one suggestion has been that the U.S. Congress might examine carefully what it has been buying for the ≥$20 billion annually being spent on foreign aid and research and social services connected with “HIV/AIDS”. But it might be that such funding will slowly wither and whimper away rather than ending with a bang: all over the world, spending on this phantom threat appears to be declining, to the anger and astonishment and dismay of those who have been feeding so amply from this trough.
In the United States:
“AIDS protest targets Emanuel — A group of Yale AIDS activists, joined by faculty members, Harvard students and activists from New York City, staged a protest on campus yesterday in response to stagnant AIDS funding from the Obama administration”.
“AHF [AIDS Healthcare Foundation] issues call for action against cuts in AIDS funding”.
Even high-publicity campaigns by celebrities are not doing so well nowadays:
“Kim Kardashian . . . and several other celebs, including Ryan Seacrest, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy and Usher, vowed on Wednesday to ‘digitally die’ and stay off Twitter and Facebook until $1 million has been raised for Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive Foundation. The money will go to save real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. But as of 4 p.m. ET Friday, only $200,476 has been donated” (“Kim Kardashian is still ‘dead’”, USA TODAY).
In South Africa:
“SA reached 5.7M HIV cases, report says — In 2009, the country spent $2.1 billion on AIDS, wherein one-third of it came from international donors including $620 million from the United States. . . . with sufficient amount of money and effective programs, the estimated figure of 350,000 to 500,000 new infection cases annually can gradually brought down to 200,000 a year”; “under this maximum effort scenario, the one that would bring down the epidemic most rapidly, South Africa’s total spending would have to more than double…to somewhere between $4 and $5 billion” (South Africa: At least 5 million new HIV infections expected over next 20 years) . But that needed increase is not coming: “Aids funding cuts putting pressure on health systems — Motlanthe”.
“The Global Fund, an international financing institution to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria will not be financing Zimbabwe’s Round 10 application for unspecified reasons. The National Aids Council (NAC) Chief Executive Officer Dr Tapiwa Magure has described the news as shocking”.
In Italy, AIDS funding has been cut progressively for nigh on a decade: “Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government had yet to allot any funds for the national AIDS program in its 2002 budget. To make matters worse, a series of freezes and delays has prevented most researchers from receiving grants awarded for 2001” (Science 295: 1811-2). This is consistent, of course, with the position of the Italian Ministry of Health, that HIV and AIDS are not the same thing and that neither is a public-health threat (Ruggiero et al., Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, 114: 97-108).
Naturally enough, the executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, “is wrestling to renew the momentum and turn the funding situation around” (“New HIV infections drop, but treatment demands rise”, Science 330: 1301, 3 December 2010). At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Caritas International had warned that a cut in funding for programs to fight HIV in the world would set back efforts by two decades (“Un taglio negli aiuti ritarderà di vent’anni la lotta all’Aids”). “Dwindling donations from rich countries imperils the 2006 U.N. and G8 goal of providing universal access to HIV drugs by 2010” (AIDS 2010 opens: leaders weigh in on global HIV/AIDS funding).
Among the self-contradictions in official statements about HIV/AIDS are the alarums about spreading infections on the one hand and yet claims of marked successes on the other hand. Thus the Sidibé interview is accompanied by a map showing claimed — of course, estimated — reductions of ≥25% in infection rates in half or more of sub-Saharan Africa and little change in the other half, with troubling increases only in the Caucasus region and a couple of small spots in South-East Asia:
If present actions have been so effective, why redouble them?
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Should any official bodies require further reason to look with jaundice at what passes for “research” into the prevention of HIV infection, they might find it in the “$823,200 of economic stimulus funds in 2009 on a study by a UCLA research team to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex”.