During the convention “Italy’s engagement in the global fight against AIDS”, that took place on the 1st of December in Milan and dedicated to the World Day against AIDS, many moments of reflection were experienced in regard to what has been done and what still has to be done to reduce the risk of deaths in the poorest countries in the world caused by Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
The speakers’ interventions not only emphasized the key role of the international cooperation which acts as a binding force in fighting the spread of these pandemics, but they also illustrated and explained the policy paper “The Global fund: an opportunity for Italy, a resource for future generations”. The report is part of the activities that the Italian Observatory against AIDS has developed. Its purpose is to sensitise Italian institutions and the public opinion regarding the importance of an efficient solution, on behalf of the international community, of the three epidemics which affect above all the poorest countries of the planet.
How many resources are necessary?
Stafania Burbo, the Observatory’s Focal point, has spoken about economic resources which could be of necessity in order to contrast AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria for the years 2017-2019 and that have the value of 134 Billion dollars, according to the evaluations. From this amount, 97, 5 Billion dollars are to be used for countries in which the Global Fund (GF) operates and at least 41 Billion dollars could be obtained from domestic resources of those countries, 23,4 Billion dollars from external donors (except GF) and 13 Billion from GF. Considering that the whole amount could cover 80% of the necessary resources, over the last months GF has asked donors for a collective effort to raise at least 13 billion dollars.
It is important to underline that from the year 2000 until today, extraordinary progresses in combating the epidemics have been realized, saving millions of lives. That said, it is important to continue to set new goals. “Let us celebrate the success of 18 million people in antiretroviral therapy, but how can we achieve the goal of having 30 Million people in ARV therapy within 2020 (goal reported in the Political Declaration signed by the members of the United Nations on the occasion of the event “Evento di Alto Livello sull’HIV/AIDS” in New York last June)?”- asks Stefania Burbo and continues: “At a global level, if new infections have reduced by 40% in comparison to the peak in 1997, and those infections that affect children have even reduced by 70% since 2001, the UNAIDS Prevention Gap Report demonstrates that the trend of new infections among adults is standing still: for the past five years no decrease in infections has been documented. However, in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Caribbean regions, Middle East and North Africa the number of infections have been rising.”
What are the critical issues?
Unfortunately there are certain laws which obstruct the access to tests, cures and vital medications. It is often women and children who are afflicted by the consequences and who are still victims of gender inequalities. Lack of funds is the second crucial point.
Moreover, from the report Financing the Response to AIDS in Low – and Middle – Income Countries: International Assistance from Donor Governments in 2015, written by Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS, emerges the fact that financial resources deployed by donors, to support the fight against HIV in medium and low income countries, have passed from 8,6 (in 2014) to 7,5 Billion dollars (last years). For 13 of 14 examined countries the drop in funding is partially due to a significant revaluation of the dollar, that has produced a devaluation of many other currencies. “Therefore, we are not to lower our guard, otherwise we could lose the positive outcomes from previous years” – underlines Stefania Burbo – “the number of new infections could increase again and it might be necessary to deploy more resources than those estimated by international institutions.”
What can Italy do?
As a focal point of the Italian Observatory against AIDS, Burbo has some suggestions for the Italian government: our country must come back to be leader in the survey of international donors; through bilateral and multilateral channels greater investments are necessary.
Moreover, its political engagement in the central government’s structure of the Global Fund and in the structure present in partner countries is to be increased. For example, increasing the participation in the Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Fund present in countries of priority for the Italian cooperation, as well as technical assistance, following the Memorandum of Understanding signed on the 27th November 2014. This way Italy can consolidate its role both inside of the community of donors and in the activities of partnership with local authorities.