29 Apr UK cutting aid to help fight AIDS and HIV branded ‘maddeningly short-sighted’ by charities | UK News
The UK has cut this year’s aid to the UN agency that fights AIDS and HIV by £12.5m – more than 80% – in a move condemned as “shameful” and “maddeningly short-sighted”.
Funding has fallen to £2.5m from £15m in 2020, UNAIDS said.
It is the latest in a drip-drip of revelations about the impact of Boris Johnson‘s decision last November to reduce the UK spending target for overseas aid to 0.5% of national income from 0.7% in the face of fierce opposition from MPs and aid agencies.
The drop translates into a reduction of more than £4bn in the overseas aid budget.
The government has said the “seismic impact” of the pandemic forced it to take “tough but necessary” decisions. It remains one of the world’s largest overseas aid donors.
News that global efforts to combat AIDS and HIV would be affected by the cuts triggered an outcry among campaigners, in particular as they come in the year when Britain takes a lead role on the world stage, hosting a G7 summit of powers and a UN climate change summit.
“These shameful cuts to HIV funding risk abandoning the UK’s leadership and influence within the HIV response at a pivotal moment,” said Saoirse Fitzpatrick, advocacy manager at STOPAIDS, a network of some 70 organisations.
“These cuts will hit the most marginalised communities around the world hardest. It threatens to undo decades of progress made in the HIV response that UK Aid has made possible.
“With 690,000 people dying from an AIDS-related illness each year, the UK government must urgently change tack and protect its funding for UNAIDS and other organisations doing vital work in the HIV response.”
Christine Stegling, executive director at the charity Frontline AIDS, said: “For the first time in decades, there is a very real threat of hard-won progress on HIV and AIDS going into reverse.
“These cuts by the UK government will actively increase that risk, setting the stage for a surge in HIV rates and AIDS deaths across many countries.
“The UK government might also reflect on the fact that HIV, much like COVID-19, doesn’t recognise borders. An increase in rates in any country should and will eventually become an issue for every country. A maddeningly short-sighted decision.”
The cuts in UK funding to UNAIDS were first reported by Will Worley, a journalist for the website Devex, which covers the global development sector.