Reaching Out to Third World AIDS Victims

A recent AIDS conference in Bangkok highlighted the efforts needed to be made by the international community to tackle HIV and AIDS. Responding to this, the UK Government has published a report entitled, “Taking Action- the UK’s strategy for tackling HIV and AIDS in the developing world” on 20 July. Christian Aid has expressed its support to the report as it has fulfilled most of the request made by the Aid.

The “Taking Action” report has defined several areas that the UK Government plans to improve in the coming years, namely international funding, international response, political leadership, reform of cultural and social practice as well as care for young people, women and orphans.

Among all the suggestions, Christian Aid celebrated the determination of the UK Government to double its contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years to £150m. The plans were pledged by Chancellor Gordon Brown followed by a formal announcement from Prime Minister Tony Blair and International Development Secretary Hilary Benn.

Christian Aid commented that this arrangement means an increase of more than 60 per cent, and brings the UK up to its fair share of the annual global US$20 billion that UNAIDS (the joint United Nations programme on AIDS), estimates is needed by 2007. It has become more good news since the pledge of raising the overseas aid up to 0.7% of the Gross National Income by 2013 was announced recently also.

Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, welcomed the UK investment. He said, “With its significantly increased financial contribution, the strategy reinforces the United Kingdom's position as a pre-eminent global AIDS funder.”

The UK Government acknowledges that apart from providing more resources for treatment to those most affected by the disease, “concentrate on tackling the root causes” is also of paramount importance.

As the International Development Secretary Hilary Benn commented, “The UK is committed to supporting national governments take forward a combination of approaches, balancing the urgent need to prevent new HIV infections with efforts to treat and care for people with HIV and AIDS.”

Christian Aid, with the same vision as the government, has strongly supported all the options for people to protect themselves from HIV, including condoms, and access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls. The Aid is particularly pleased that the UK government is also vocally supporting a comprehensive approach, in refreshing contrast to the emphasis on abstinence promoted by the US.

In the report, the UK Government has especially drawn plans on supporting developing countries to protect human rights and help their poorest and most vulnerable citizens. This coincides with Christian Aid’s commitment to women, young people and orphans who are at extra high risk to HIV.

The report suggested some practical measures. The UK Government will offer more assistance for developing countries to run their health education and schools. It will also push for legal reforms that will give women and young girls rights if they are subjected to sexual violence and abuse.

Nevertheless, Christian Aid lamented the report for not covering ways to tackle discrimination against AIDS patients. The need to run HIV programmes in countries in conflict and countries in post-conflict situations are not mentioned at all. Christian Aid hopes that the Government will strengthen these areas in the coming months.

In 2005, the UK has a unique opportunity to raise further the profile of AIDS when it holds the Presidencies of both the G8 and the European Union. 2005 is also a milestone year for the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed targets to reduce world poverty. Acknowledging AIDS is one of the greatest threats to eradicating poverty, the UK promises in the report that it will make every effort to persuade more countries and political leaders to play their parts.