View photos at www.fundglobalaids.org.
Vienna, Austria -- Hundreds of angry people living with HIV and AIDS activists marched through the Messe Wien conference center, the site of the 2010 International AIDS Conference, and then staged a mass "die-in." The activists intended to delay the opening ceremony to illustrate how governments around the world are slowing and scaling back their commitments toward Universal Access to HIV care, treatment and prevention. Tombstones, held to remind conference attendees of the 15 million people who are in immediate need of treatment, read "Broken Promises Kill, No Retreat, Fund AIDS." Recently, the U.S. and European governments have pulled back in their support for AIDS care, treatment and prevention and to the fact that governments in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, have failed to live up to their commitment to fund AIDS treatment and other health needs as laid out in the Abuja Declaration.
The Global Fund (GFATM), the world's response to the AIDS crisis, was forced to adopt 10% budget cuts to the first 2 years of funding, and 25% cuts to for the last 3 years. Michael, Gwaba from the Zambia Community Initiative for Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS & Malaria (CITAM+) and the Here I Am Campaign, said, "There remains a huge funding gap for Round 10, opened in May 2010, which will result in countries scaling back programs and resisting investment in activities with recurrent costs, such as hiring desperately needed health workers or enrolling new patients in treatment."
In 2010, the U.S. Congress paid $1.05 billion to the GFATM -- $1.7 billion less than the U.S. fair share. For 2011, President Obama proposed to cut funding to only $1 billion, even though at least $2 billion is needed from the US to begin to close the GFATM's funding gap.
The demonstration was kicked off with a massive banner drop at the site of the conference. In addition, 4 giant helium filled balloons flew in front of the conference center with the faces of world leaders and demanding full funding to fight global AIDS.
"There are many important discussions that will take place during the International AIDS Conference. However, in order for any of those discussions to have any relevance, ALL conferees must first address the growing crisis in funding for AIDS care and prevention," said Mabel Takana, an AIDS activist with Health GAP from Cameroon.
"The African Union countries have failed to live up to their Abuja commitments on health, and our finance ministers recently suggested that these spending targets should be dismissed altogether. Already, access to HIV treatment is being cut back. Waiting lists are growing. Despite their repeated rhetorical recognition that investment in health is critical for socio-economic development, governments around the world are retreating from their commitments particularly with regards to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care," said Paula Akugizibwe from ARASA.
According to Gregory Vergus, Director, "ITPC RU is now receiving daily reports on increasing ARV stock outs across the Russian Federation. The government is refusing to act and is instead threatening limits on continued ARV access."
"International funding for AIDS helps pay for critical support services like housing and food without which people with AIDS -- nor any of us -- could survive. World governments should be ashamed of breaking their promises to people with AIDS," said Charles King, President and CEO, Housing Works.
The activists will continue their actions throughout the duration of the conference.
The action was endorsed by over 200 AIDS organizations from around the world a full list of which is available at www.fundglobalaids.org.