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NGO Warns Economic Crisis Could Re-Ignite AIDS Epidemic


The anti-poverty agency ActionAid is warning that the current economic crisis could re-ignite the global AIDS epidemic. The group is calling on G8 leaders to keep the promises they made to provide near universal access to treatment.

Leonard Okello is ActionAid's international head of HIV/AIDS. From Kampala, Uganda, he explains the effects the economic crisis could have on efforts to end the epidemic.

"I feel that there's a danger that resources that were mobilized to fund HIV response could get squeezed because of other priorities in the different crises that the world is facing today. We also think that when that happens, we could easily get a reduction in treatment. We could get a reduction in prevention work and AIDS will increase," he says.

Okello says there's evidence of this already. "I know that quite a few countries are already thinking through and struggling with how to get money for treatment if they do not get the resources they were hoping for. And at the moment, the big worry is that we are already seeing the Global Fund (to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) particularly saying they're putting 2009 on hold because of (uncertainty) of whether they will have their money altogether," he says.

Okello says that ActionAid is sending a message to G8 leaders. He says, "That while we recognize that the economic crisis is biting, we need to remember that there are still many people out there who need treatment. There are many people out there who are at risk of infection in whom we need to invest. Because it is only a health population that can be productive to be able to produce the money and resources and goods and services that are needed to jump start the economy."

He says what happens in one part of the world can have far reaching consequences elsewhere. Okello says, "In a globalized world like this, the consequences of not investing in the health of one part of the world significantly affects any other part of the world. We've already seen how theā€¦economic crisis in the United States has affected the world across. So, in not investing in health, especially in HIV/AIDS, in Africa particularly, will mean that the overall impact will be seen in the economy in the near future."

The warning from ActionAid comes a few days before the December First commemoration of World AIDS Day.