Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Press Statement on HIV/AIDS, TB Malaria activist emergency meeting


Contact                                                                                              Press Conference Details
Czerina Patel                                                                                      Thursday, March 22, 2012, 1pm
Health Financing Communications Officer                                        Suite 7
WORLD AIDS CAMPAIGN                                                               Protea Hotel
+27-79-867-4439                                                                                Corner Main & Arthurs Roads                                                                            Sea Point, Cape Town, S. Africa                                                                             +27-21-434-3344

HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria activists hold emergency meeting ahead of World TB Day as global leaders bail out banks but block progress in combating life-threatening diseases by not paying what they have promised

(Cape Town, March 19, 2012) - For decades Africa has been ravaged by its three most life-threatening diseases: HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. The “deadly trio” takes the lives of millions of Africans every year, but instead of focusing on these ruthless diseases, many African governments are spending their budgets on guns or exorbitant political salaries, while failing to fulfill their promises to protect their citizens by investing in health and in providing medical prevention and treatment - the weapons that are needed the most.

“Where is the money?” asked hundreds of activists at the December 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through demonstrations, speeches and a petition handed over to the African Union.

There are approximately 46 million people living in the world with HIV or TB and more than 200 million cases of malaria annually. The Abuja Declaration adopted in April 2001 by African leaders declared the response to HIV/AIDS, TB and other related infections as the highest priority issue in their respective national development plans, committing 15% of their national budgetary allocations to health. Now, 11 years down the line only a handful of countries have achieved this target, with the regional average remaining at 7%, and much of this amount actually coming from international donor countries.

In addition to African governments neglecting their commitments, some countries including Italy, Spain, and Ireland have also failed to pay in their pledges to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), which provides about two-thirds of total international funding for TB and malaria services, and one-fifth for HIV services. The Global Fund‘s recent announcement to cancel Round 11 funding due to unfulfilled pledges and budget shortfalls came as a crippling blow to Africa’s health sector. Amongst other things, it means that the Global Fund will not fund the expansion of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria programmes until 2014.

It was largely due to the impact of the Global Fund’s significant contribution to fighting these diseases over the past decade that the HIV sector recently became more optimistic than ever about achieving a world with no new infections and no more AIDS or HIV-TB deaths.  Not only had new HIV infections

dropped to their lowest levels since 1997, but breakthrough new scientific research1 shows that providing early antiretroviral therapy (ART) to an HIV infected person can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner by 96%.

“The new research suggests that if we invest more in treatment, we not only save the lives of those living with HIV, but we also prevent new infections by almost eliminating transmission,” says Rosemary Mburu, the Regional Civil Society Platform Coordinator of the World Aids Campaign. “We can actually now envision a world where HIV is no longer the enormous threat it is today, but in order to do so, we need increased investment now.”

To reduce funding for the HIV response in difficult economic times is short-sighted and counterproductive and will put the world in a position where the financial burden of disease gets exponentially heavier instead of lighter. Last week at the 4th Interagency Meeting on Coordination and Harmonization of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (ATM) Strategies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, global health experts said the Global Fund decision on Round 11 “represents a setback, particularly because it comes at a time when countries were planning [to] scale-up case detection with new rapid diagnostics, [to] intensify efforts on addressing HIV associated TB and  [to] expand capacity to treat drug resistant TB.”

When we invest in health, we see we can overcome these life-threatening diseases. Just last week, it was announced that South Africa has successfully treated three patients with extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB at the Klerksdorp-Tshepong Hospital, the first three such success stories related to XDR TB in South Africa. Rates of new HIV infections have also decreased by 50% in South Africa.

Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25% since 2000 due to a massive scale up of mosquito nets and indoor spraying, increased access to diagnosis and effective treatment, as well as research and activism around policy issues such as the banning of oral artemisinin-based monotherapies to prevent the spread of drug resistant malaria.

Still, an estimated 6 million South Africans are living with HIV, and TB is responsible for 60% of HIV related deaths in Kenya. Someone in the world is infected with TB every second and people living with HIV are about 37 times more likely to develop TB than people free of HIV infection. In Cameroon, 60% of pregnant women suffer from malaria and 35% of all deaths of children under 5 is due to malaria. Between four to five million deaths occur annually around the world as a result of the deadly trio. This is not just a number. It’s millions of lives, and millions of children left without parents or children themselves dying.

Unless the global community commits an additional $2 billion now towards the Global Fund, people who contract these diseases will be turned away from life-saving treatment. Preventing transmission of HIV (through treatment (ARTs) as well as other prevention mechanisms including condom use) is essential to reducing rates of TB illness and deaths.

In this health environment, pulling dollars means pushing death. It is for this reason that this week’s emergency meeting to coordinate activist efforts around health financing has been called with the goal to develop a unified voice around the three greatest threats to the health of African people. The activists will develop an emergency action plan to put pressure on domestic governments and international donor countries to close the budget shortfall and put people first by investing $2 billion by
July of this year and will simultaneously push for innovative initiatives such as special levies and a financial transaction tax (FTT) to ensure that health is given the investment it deserves.
It is not common for HIV, TB and Malaria organizations to come together, but the threat these three diseases are posing to the African continent and the danger of not having the responses properly funded is so large that it is essential to collaborate, build solidarity and strategize together to ensure both donor and African governments properly fund the health response.

1 The HIV Prevention Trials Network study (HPTN 052) was named Top Scientific Breakthrough by Science Magazine in December 2011.
Activists from across the African continent will attend this meeting, convened by AfriCASO, Aids Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), The Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS Service Organisations (EANNASO), The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the World Aids Campaign (WAC). UNAIDS, Global Fund, International Civil Society Support (ICSS), Open Society Foundations, Stop TB NOW, The Roll Back Malaria Campaign and RESULTS will also participate.

While the emergency meeting is happening in Cape Town, South Africa, hundreds of activists will participate in a march and memorandum handover on Thursday March 22nd in Johannesburg to demand that international donor countries do more to replenish the Global Fund and close the health financing gap left by the failure of governments to fulfill their pledges to health. This week the world also recognizes World TB Day (March 24th), with a “Stop TB in My Lifetime” campaign.

Global leaders must commit now to invest in research, treatment and prevention of these diseases, which cumulatively affect more than 200 million people in a year. Globally, we have been making progress educating citizens around health: testing for diseases, removing stigmas, and assuring them that once diagnosed, they can be treated and survive, but if the Global Fund stops funding new treatments and African governments fail to do their part as well, then this is no longer true, and for millions of people, disease will mean death.  ###

Meeting Details
Tuesday March 20 (9am) - Thursday March 22 (2:30pm), 2012
Press Conference 1pm Thursday March 22, 2012
[Suite 7, Protea Hotel] – Park at hotel (tell them you are here for World AIDS Campaign conference)
All of the above will take place at the Protea Hotel (Corner Main & Arthurs Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa – entrance on Arthurs)
Panelists on the press conference will include activists from all over Africa who will give an overview of the state of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa, and also discuss what the impact of not closing the funding gap would be to each of these diseases and to health overall. In addition, the outcomes of this week’s health financing meeting will be shared with the media. One panelist will also speak about their personal experiences surviving TB. More details on the panelists will be sent to the press upon request.

Johannesburg Protest March & Memorandum Handover
Thursday March 22, 2012, 11:30am
1 Sandton Drive, Johannesburg, South Africa

Participants: Over 1,000 southern African activists & representatives of the Treatment Action Campaign, Médecins Sans Frontières South Africa, World Aids Campaign, Aids Rights Alliance of Southern Africa, He-Tic, Médecins Sans Frontières Swaziland, and Section27.

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