STOPAIDS welcomes the UK Government’s increased pledge to the Robert Carr Fund (RCF). RCF is an excellent organisation funding critical work for the HIV response. Yet, despite this increase, community-led HIV organisations remain chronically underfunded. Increased RCF funding also goes nowhere near to repair the UK’s much bigger cuts to its global HIV response and its broader aid budget.
At the UN High Level Meeting on HIV & AIDS, FCDO Minister Wendy Morton pledged £7 million to the RCF over the next three years. This pledge represents an increase of 17% compared to the FCDO’s previous contribution of £6m between 2018-2021. We are pleased that RCF has raised an estimated $38 million from all donors for the next 2022-2024 round which will allow them to advance their critical work.
RCF is the first international pooled funding mechanism that aims to strengthen global and regional HIV civil society and community networks. The Fund invests to protect the rights of inadequately served populations; scale up access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; and ensure that resources are mobilized and used appropriately to respond to the global HIV epidemic.
The UN High Level Meeting will see world leaders commit to ending HIV by preventing new HIV infections and ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to treatment. Yet, for inadequately served populations much of this progress remains out of reach. Key populations account for over 60% of new HIV acquisitions worldwide and are frequently prevented from releasing their right to health. Considering the new Global AIDS Strategy’s goal of ending the inequalities that fuel the epidemic, the work of RCF is more vital than ever.
In her speech announcing the contribution, Minister Morton highlighted “we should not leave anyone behind – this is our moral duty, and a public heath necessity”. Welcoming the Global AIDS Strategy, she stated one of the biggest barriers to ending AIDS, is a lack of political will that flows from a lack of respect for the rights of women, adolescents, LGBTQ people, and minorities. She stressed the UK Government’s commitment to use its voice on the world stage to fight for gender equality and human rights.
The FCDO’s increased contribution to RCF is a step in the right direction but is dwarfed by the broader global HIV funding gap. Declines in international resources in recent years have contributed to the total resources available for HIV responses in low- and middle-income countries levelling off well short of the 2020 target of US$ 26 billion annually. Despite playing critically important roles, community led organisations are critically underfunded. Key populations and their partners account for over 60% of new HIV acquisitions worldwide; yet only 2% of HIV funding globally goes to key-population led responses.
Whilst the UK’s funding to RCF will help fill this funding gap and support some critical community-led organisations, £7 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what the UK Government has cut from the global HIV response. This includes slashing the funding to UNAIDS, Unitaid and UNFPA by over 80% respectively, and cutting global health R&D spending in half. The Government has also decimated its funding for HIV bilateral programmes which has forced the closure of a number of vital HIV services.
On Tuesday over 140 cross-party parliamentarians and leaders in the HIV response wrote to the Prime Minister to ask the Government to repair the impact of the HIV cuts. The letter urged them to do this by announcing supplementary allocations; continuing as a leading donor to UNAIDS, UNFPA, Global Fund and Unitaid; and committing to urgently returning to the 0.7% aid spending commitment.
Mike Podmore, STOPAIDS Director said:
Given the Robert Carr Fund’s critical mission in advancing the rights of the communities most affected by HIV, I welcome the UK’s positive recommitment and Minister Morton’s strong statement. This funding will be critical in supporting civil society networks to provide vital health services and advance the rights of Inadequately Served Populations.
But £7 million over three years for the Robert Carr Fund is not sufficient to repair the damage being caused by the massive cuts that the Government is implementing across other HIV organisations. As G7 President and as a historic leader for the global HIV response, the eyes of the world are on the UK. I urge the government to step up for the HIV response by announcing supplementary allocations for key HIV agencies that’ve been cut and committing to urgently returning to the 0.7% commitment
Eli Fitzgerald, Youth Stop AIDS campaigner and Youth Representative in the UK Government’s Delegation to the High Level Meeting said:
I am grateful for minister Morton’s positive and impactful statement and the UK’s commitment of pledging the Robert Carr Fund with £7 million over the course of three years. However, this is simply not enough, more so with the UK government’s recent cut to aid. As the minister said “ We are now 40 years on from the devastating emergence of AIDS ”, we must ensure that 50 years on we are not having the same conversations around how to address the inequalities facing communities most affected by HIV. In 2021 we have got the tools to end AIDS by 2030, but we do not have sustainable global funding to reach this goal.
The UK must do more to step up for HIV, and ensure funding is secured and sustained for us to reach our goal of ending AIDS by 2030.
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