STOPAIDS statement on further cuts to the UK aid budget

STOPAIDS strongly opposes the UK Government’s decision to further cut the aid budget by £580 million in 2022. This shocking news came after Rishi Sunak’s decision to include a multi-million debt owed by Sudan toward the nation’s reduced target of spending 0.5% of GNI on aid. There’s no recent indication that the UK Government was expecting this debt to be repaid – it was essentially written off years ago.  

This news comes after the drastic cuts this year in ODA spending from 0.7% to 0.5%, an approximate £4 billion reduction in aid, leaving the total amount spent on aid at roughly £10 billion. Since these cuts were announced in April, we are already seeing the ramifications.  

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.  In August, STOPAIDS partnered with Frontline AIDS and the APPG on HIV and AIDS to collect case studies of UK aid-funded multilateral, bilateral and research projects. Our new report highlights that from reduced access to contraceptives to driving more people into poverty, these cuts set the stage for increases in HIV transmissions and AIDS related deaths.

Although finally cancelling this debt owed by Sudan is welcome, it is questionable whether the Sudanese Government and local civil society would have wanted this to happen to the detriment of further significant cuts to the aid budget. A cut of £580 million to the aid budget could mean Sudan and East Africa may not fully benefit from this debt relief. For example, East and Southern Africa is the region most affected by HIV in the world and is home to the largest number of people living with HIV, so if the UK reduces its pledge to the Global Fund and other global health multilaterals then any reductions would be keenly felt by the region.

To prevent further harm and ensure the Government has the necessary resourcing to advance its development priorities, any further cuts to the aid budget should be completely avoided. It is against this context that reports that the UK Government is considering to count Special Drawing Rights & debt relief as ODA is very concerning. We urge the Government to urgently reconsider counting Sudan debt relief as ODA. The Government must use the upcoming Spending Review to save lives, it must allocate adequate resourcing to end the HIV epidemic & ensure that everyone can realise their right to health.