A new report has warned that the world is gradually sleepwalking towards a new AIDS emergency following the United Kingodom’s decision to cut its level of official development assistance from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income.
According to the report titled, Jeopardising Progress: Impact of UK Government AIDS Cuts on HIV/AIDS Worldwide, there is urgent need for action to get the HIV response back on track. The report also shows how COVID-19 has disrupted HIV services, leading to significant declines in HIV testing and referrals to treatment around the world. The report is the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS, Stop AIDS and Frontline AIDS.
The UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, met British parliamentarians to discuss the findings of the report during her visit to London earlier this month.
Ms Byanyima also met the Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, and the Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Wendy Morton. During the meetings, Ms Byanyima praised the United Kingdom’s own progress against the HIV epidemic and said the country’s leadership and participation in the global AIDS response was needed now more than ever.
Over the past decade, whilst DFID made significant cuts to its bilateral HIV funding, theUK Government’s commitment to multilateral institutions working on HIV & AIDS increased. But we are now seeing a ‘double whammy’ of funding cuts, with several key multilaterals that do critical work for the HIV response seeing their funding decimated.
“For a relatively limited amount of UK Aid funding, organisations such as UNAIDS,UNFPA and Unitaid have had a proven catalytic impact for the HIV response and broaderglobal health. Significant funding cuts to multilateral organisations will undoubtedlyaffect the international community’s ability to get the HIV response back on track andadvance FCDO development priorities; including pandemic preparedness, health systemstrengthening and ending preventable deaths.” indicated the Report.
The report added the cut on aid by the UK could reverse decades of hard won progress and plunge millions of people into serious social and health conditions.
“From reduced access to contraceptives to driving more people into poverty, we are already seeing how significant cuts to multilateral organisations could set the stage to reverse decades of hard-won progress in the HIV response that UK Aid has been instrumental in delivering. Within this difficult period for UK Aid, it is welcome that the UK Government has protected its funding for the Global Fund and the Robert Carr Fund.
“Both mechanisms provide critical functions for the HIV response and some of the most marginalised people. However, in isolation they will not mitigate against the harm caused by the UK’s wider funding cuts and rely on their partners being fully resourced to realise their full potential. For example, the Global Fund estimates it would take three more years for its programmes to have their intended impact without the work of Unitaid.Across the case studies explored in this section, there appears to be limited consultation or impact assessments from the FCDO when deciding on these significant ODA cuts to multilateral organisations.”
The report went on to suggest that in order to sustain development gains and ensure value for money, any decision to withdraw or reduce external financing should be led by a robust, context-specific impact assessment,accompanied by a risk mitigation framework.
“Given the importance of aid allocation needing to be evidence-led (including robust impact assessments, risk mitigation frameworks, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms), it is highly concerning that these steps seemingly weren’t adhered to within the Government’s decisions on ODA allocation for the 2021-2022 financial year.
“When making future decisions on ODA allocation, the FCDO’s decisions must be led by robust impact assessments and wide consultation with partners.The upcoming Government Spending Review will cover a critical period as we swiftly approach the target set for many of the SDGs , including SDG 3.3: to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis,water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases by 2030.”
Meanwhile, it was suggested that the Spending Review provides a critical opportunity to mitigate against the impact of the UK’s Government ODA cuts and get the HIV response back on track.