Economic Downturn Likely To Threaten HIV Treatment, Prevention Programs, Report SaysIRIN/PlusNews on Wednesday examined a World Bank report published last week that suggests the current economic downturn could threaten antiretroviral treatment access for about 1.7 million HIV-positive people by the end of 2009. According to the report, developing countries could face drug shortages, treatment interruptions and an increase in HIV prevalence as a result of the global economic situation.
According to IRIN/PlusNews, the downturn is likely to have the greatest impact on programs in Southern and Eastern Africa. In addition, many HIV/AIDS programs in this region are heavily reliant on donor funding and have limited support from local governments, IRIN/PlusNews reports.
Joy Phumaphi, World Bank vice-president for human development, said that "[s]ocial services are likely to suffer as governments cut back on spending, currencies devalue and external aid donors come under pressure to maintain existing levels of foreign assistance." Tanzania this year announced plans to reduce its national HIV/AIDS budget by 25%, and similar actions in Kenya and Sudan already have led to medical supply shortages. According to the report, funding reductions might lead countries to reduce emphasis on prevention programs and instead allocate money for treatment initiatives, which produce short-term, easily measurable benefits. According to IRIN/PlusNews, groups such as commercial sex workers, injection drug users and men who have sex with men will likely be the hardest hit by reductions in prevention programs.
Although many countries will face difficult choices during the economic downturn, the report recommends that nations receiving substantial amounts of international assistance use early warning systems to identify any potential drug and funding shortages and avoid treatment interruptions (IRIN/PlusNews, 4/29).
The report is available online (.pdf). This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.