Whilst world leaders meet at the UN General Assembly, STOPAIDS, Frontline AIDS and the APPG on HIV and AIDS’ new report highlights that the UK Government’s aid cuts are jeopardising progress in HIV response & the efforts to achieve the agreed targets from the recent UN High Level Meeting on HIV & AIDS. These targets include reducing the annual number of new HIV infections to under 370,000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250,000.
The drastic cuts in ODA spending from 0.7% to 0.5% have come at a critical time for the HIV response. We’re seeing significant cuts across all of the UK’s multilateral, bilateral, and research & development (R&D) funding at a crucial time for the HIV response when COVID-19 is threatening to reverse a decade of progress.
This year the UK has cut funding to key agencies like UNAIDS, Unitaid and UNFPA by over 80% respectively; cut global health R&D spending in half; and effectively wiped out what remained of the UK’s bilateral funding going directly to HIV civil society and community-led organisations.
From reduced access to contraceptives to driving more people into poverty, the report highlights how cutting aid funding will increase the number of HIV transmissions and AIDS related deaths. The report raises the alarm that the cuts risk setting the stage for a resurgence of the pandemic which will carry a heavy human and financial toll, affecting the most marginalised in societies. Moreover, these drastic cuts also risk jeopardising the UK’s diplomacy and hard-won reputation as a leader for the HIV response.
These cuts will undoubtedly affect the international community’s ability to get the HIV response back on track and deliver on UK Government development priorities. This includes their plans on including pandemic preparedness, health system strengthening, and ending preventable deaths.
The report highlights that it is not too late to mitigate against the impact caused by the UK’s aid cuts and get the HIV response back on track. We welcome the appointment of Liz Truss as the new FCDO Secretary of State. She has the opportunity to save lives and get the HIV response back on track by making supplementary allocations to the critical organisations that implement bilateral and multilateral aid programs that have faced substantial cuts; and put in place plans for sustainable, long-term funding. But to address significant funding gaps and drive forward efforts to realise the Sustainable Development Goals, it’s essential that the UK Government urgently returns to meeting the 0.7% spending commitment.
Baroness Barker, Vice-Chair of the APPG on HIV said:
“Four decades on from the start of the AIDS crisis, the global HIV response is teetering. It’s caught in a perfect storm of waning political support, diminishing funds and the global shock of COVID-19.
There couldn’t be a worse time for the Government to cut so much funding. Our report highlights the devastating impact that the cuts are already having and how its jeopardising decades of progress. Britain is and can be so much better than this. I urge the Government to think again. We must save lives and get the HIV response back on track.”
Mike Podmore, Director of STOPAIDS said:
“The Evidence submitted to this inquiry demonstrates clearly the terrible impact that the ODA cuts have made. I am really alarmed that the UK Government is seemingly willing to jeopardise decades of hard-won progress in the HIV response that UK Aid has been instrumental in delivering. Cutting aid will do little to reduce the UK’s deficit and yet will have a devastating impact on the world’s poor and marginalised. New FCDO Secretary of State Rt Liz Truss MP can help repair the damage and reignite the UK’s historic leadership in the HIV response. I hope she’ll take up this mantle – countless lives are depending on it ”.
Chrstine Stegling, Executive Director of Frontline AIDS, said:
“For the most marginalised communities, vulnerable both to AIDS and the impact of COVID-19, these cuts could not have come at a worse time. The World Health Organization has confirmed that people living with HIV who contract COVID-19 are at significantly increased risk of developing severe or fatal disease. A funding cut at this scale would have always been disruptive; today, with many communities doubly hit by two pandemics, such cuts are catastrophic.”
Notes to editor:
With significant cuts announced for the HIV response, The APPG on HIV and AIDS put out a call for written evidence on how the aid cuts had impacted organisations and the global HIV & AIDS response. Through exploring case studies of UK Aid-funded multilateral, bilateral and research projects, it analyses how crucial organisations and people living with HIV are being affected by the cuts. Report highlights vital programmes are being forced to close and we risk leaving behind some of the most marginalised communities. The report also highlights how such funding cuts risk reversing the impact of UK Aid investments and the significant progress made in HIV and AIDS.
In terms of multilateral funding, the UK Government has made cuts of over 80% to key multilateral organisations for the HIV response including UNAIDS, UNFPA, and Unitaid. From reduced access to contraceptives to driving more people into poverty, the report highlights how cutting this funding will both disproportionately affect already marginalised communities and risk reversing the impact of UK Aid investments.
Whilst it’s welcome that the Government has protected its funding given to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, in isolation this Fund will not mitigate against the harm caused by the UK’s wider funding cuts. The Global Fund is also at its most effective when working in partnership with the very organisations who’ve seen their funding from the UK Government decimated.
Even before the cuts in 2021 were announced, after a decade of cuts and closure of DFID country programmes, the UK Government’s bilateral funding for HIV was already minimal. The recent aid cuts effectively wipe out the little that remained of the UK’s bilateral HIV funding.
With cutting bilateral funding, opportunities are lost to develop much-needed innovative solutions to complex challenges, such as improving access to HIV services in crisis situations. Projects that have been forced to close would have provided innovative HIV & AIDS and SRHR programming solutions to many marginalised communities , including those affected by the deepening fragility in Lebanon, the dire situation in Afghanistan and the related refugee crisis.Secondly, there is a dangerous scale down of HIV services in the dire COVID-19 context which could lead to increased HIV transmissions. Thirdly, abrupt and poorly coordinated cuts have led to the weakening of the programmatic impact, operations, and sustainability of many national organisations on the ground as well as the UK-based organisations. Last but not least, lack of communication and coordination around the cuts with the UK’s international partners and country partners have damaged the UK’s diplomacy and position as a leader in the HIV response and on the world stage more broadly.
The report highlights that funding for global health R&D has been significantly affected. We have heard that the funding provided by the UK Government for HIV-related R&D has fallen by nearly two-thirds in the last decade, and funding for HIV vaccine R&D has been cut from around £5 million per year to zero.
In addition, this year the UK Government’s funding for global health product development partnerships (PDPs) has been cut by 87%. Through investment in PDPs, UK Aid has helped develop and deploy more than 65 products to combat many of the world’s deadliest diseases that people living with HIV are often disproportionately affected by. Without increased and long-term funding, we risk jeopardizing innovation and pushing patients to access the treatment they need at a much later stage which could impact the lives of millions.
Evidence submitted to this inquiry highlights that it is not too late to mitigate against the impact caused by the UK’s aid cuts and get the HIV response back on track. The upcoming Spending Review provides a critical opportunity to do this. The UK Government should use the Spending Review to make supplementary allocations to the critical organisations that faced substantial cuts and put in place plans for sustainable, long-term funding, including for the Global Fund’s seventh replenishment. But to address significant funding gaps and drive forward efforts to realise the Sustainable Development Goals, it’s essential that the UK Government urgently returns to meeting the 0.7% spending commitment.
The full report can be downloaded here.
For further comment or to arrange interview, please contact: James Cole – firstname.lastname@example.org / 07421992348