Alert over possible switch to Aids cash

Billions of dollars targeted at fighting Aids could in a few years be redirected to tackling climate change – increasing the urgency for bigger steps soon against the killer disease, the world’s largest Aids foundation has warned.

Jon Liden, of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that members of the G8 group of wealthy nations were “under pressure” to be more specific about their pledge at the Heiligendamm summit last month of $60bn for tackling Aids and other diseases.

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, this week urged rich nations, including the G8, to spend more on development assistance, including Aids prevention.

He criticised industrialised countries for the “lack of significant increases in official development assistance since 2004”.

Deaths from Aids worldwide rose to 2.9m in 2006, from 2.2m in 2001, according to a new UN report.

Mr Liden’s comments on climate change are a rare public acknowledgement of an expected shift in funding towards environmental issues from health and other development concerns. He said the Global Fund “is not naive about what [the increased importance of] global warming will do to Aids funding in a few years’ time”. A string of high-level climate reports, plus the G8 focus on climate this month, meant the “huge momentum” behind Aids funding “cannot last for ever”.

African politicians, development specialists and campaign groups have criticised the G8’s $60bn pledge as being vague, as it gives no timescale or details of how the money would be used.

The Global Fund – which receives over 90 per cent of its funds from western governments – originally welcomed the G8 pledge made in Heiligendamm on June 8.

But campaign groups criticised the pledge as an “act of deception”, with Oxfam and Data, two development groups, both arguing that the $60bn figure would – under current budgets of G8 governments – mean only $3bn in new funding by 2010.

Mr Liden said that there was “great disappointment” among Aids specialists that the G8 distanced itself from the “aspirational target” of meeting universal coverage of Aids treatment by reaching up to 10m people. The G8 this month reduced this target, saying only it hoped to reach 5m sufferers “over the next few years”.

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