Fully financing’ HIV response in Africa will save millions of lives, says UNAIDS

By Akinola Adeniyi Patrick, Lagos

Fully financing the HIV response in Africa will produce substantial health, social and economic gains for the continent, a new report backed by the UN agency devoted to ending AIDS (UNAIDS) has revealed.

The report based on research by the Economist Impact partnership across 13 African countries, A Triple Dividend: The health, social and economic gains from financing the HIV response in Africa, estimates that millions of lives will also be saved if funding is forthcoming.

Not only would there be between 40 and 90 per cent fewer new HIV infections, depending on the country, but investing in ending the HIV epidemic would also enhance educational outcomes, especially for young women and girls, reduce gender inequalities and boost economic growth.

“This report comes at a critical time with evidence that should act as a catalyst for political decisions to ensure full HIV funding, that will have substantial social and economic outcomes,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“It will put African countries on a path towards building more resilient healthcare systems and be better prepared for future pandemics.”

The report demonstrates that failing to mobilise the required funding to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 has substantial health, social and economic costs.

“Countries in Africa are up against significant challenges to secure the necessary resources to increase domestic funding for the HIV response,” said Rob Cook, clinical programme director at Economist Impact.

“Policymakers will need to think innovatively about how they can use existing financing more effectively. Drawing on existing community-centred networks could play a key role in both mobilising additional resources for the HIV response and ensuring that it is equitable and reaches those most in need.”

Fighting HIV during global crises

Recent global crises, including COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, have compromised efforts to address the HIV epidemic and placed strong pressure on financing for health and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Young women, children and other vulnerable populations will pay the highest price as pre-existing health and socio-economic inequalities grow, said UNAIDS.

The significant fiscal challenges facing African countries has limited their ability to increase domestic financing for HIV response and constrained overall health budgets.

Economist Impact’s research points towards the need for policies that aim to both generate new revenue streams and maximize the use of existing funds and resources.

Global 2025 targets include reducing new HIV infections to under 370,000 (from 1.5 million in 2021), reducing HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women to less than 50,000, and reducing the number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses to less than 250,000 (compared with 650,000 in 2021).

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