Main | Friday, January 18, 2008

Rethinking AIDS Spending

With the AIDS pandemic in the middle of its third decade, some AIDS experts are saying that resources spent to fight HIV/AIDS might be better spent elsewhere.
[W]ith revised numbers downsizing the pandemic published last year along with an admission that AIDS peaked in the late 1990's, some AIDS experts are now wondering if it might be wise to shift some of the billions of dollars of AIDS money to basic health problems like clean water, family planning or diarrhea.

"If we look at the data objectively, we are spending too much on AIDS,'' said Dr. Malcolm Potts, an AIDS expert at the University of California in Berkeley, who once worked with prostitutes on the front lines of the epidemic in Ghana.

Problems like malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria kill more children in Africa than AIDS. "We are programmed to react quickly to small children with AIDS in distress,'' Potts said. "Unfortunately, we don't have that same reaction when looking at statistics that tell us what we should be spending on.''

The world invests about US$8 billion to US$10 billion into AIDS every year, more than 100 times what it spends on clean water projects in developing countries. Yet more than 2 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation, and about 1 billion lack clean water.
Here's the sensible answer from Tom Coates, a professor of global AIDS research at the University of California in Los Angeles: "Why does the public health budget have to be so limited? Let's not drag AIDS care and prevention down to the level of every other disease, but let's bring everything else up to the level of AIDS."

For comparison, for that $10B the world spends on AIDS every year, Americans spend the same $10B on the Iraq war EVERY MONTH.


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