This year, on World AIDS Day, I’d like to start off by congratulating health officials and policymakers for some pretty impressive strides we’ve made in the fight against this deadly disease.
The HIV/AIDS virus, which affects more than 33 million people worldwide, has proven to be a challenge for doctors and scientists alike. However, the tide is turning: Health officials are now reporting promising downward trends in new infections and mortality, and great gains in treatment coverage rates.
Figures from a recent global study by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) show that the number of new AIDS infections decreased to 2.7 million in 2010, compared to 3.1 million new cases in 2001. Meanwhile, the number of people getting lifesaving treatment rose to 6.5 million in 2010 from a mere 400,000 in 2003.
We’re also seeing more efficient outreach programs, including health clinics integrating services and communities finding more effective ways to distribute medicine to patients who need it.
Worldwide, there’s no doubt that we’ve made a lot of progress in the past 20 years in the fight against AIDS. But what about the next 20 years?
With the good news, I’m afraid, there also comes the bad. United Nations health agencies reported Wednesday programs that support AIDS treatment are facing major budget cuts.
Annual funding for HIV/AIDS programs fell from $15.9 billion in 2009 to $15 billion in 2010. This is $7 billion less than the $22-24 billion the U.N. agencies said is needed by 2015 to pay for an effective global campaign.
The organization announced last week it was canceling new grants for countries affected by AIDS and would make no new funding available until 2014. There has also been a decline in international donor money.
I worry the funding crisis will stall – or even set back – the huge steps we’ve taken, and impede the World Health Organization’s ultimate goal: To bring infections, deaths and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS down to zero.
We’ve committed so much to this fight already. Now is not the time to cut back.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.