In his special opening address to the conference, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, highlighted that currently those responding to the AIDS pandemic face an “agonising choice between who can live and who must die” as a result of inadequate funding; a situation which he said cannot be allowed to happen.
Julio Montaner, Co-Chair of the organising committee for the conference reiterated the gaps in financing universal access, illustrating how donors use the global financial crisis as an excuse for not increasing funding for HIV and health, yet “were falling behind [on commitments] long before the fiscal crisis”.
In addresses from Bill Clinton and Bill Gates on the first full day of the conference, the question of efficiency of resources reared its head. In the opening plenary, Bill Clinton highlighted the need for more efficient use of AIDS funding to ensure that all those who need services are able to access them, saying “every dollar we waste a day puts a life at risk”. In a session later in the same day, Bill Clinton echoed this sentiment, stating that “every life lost is a dollar wasted”.
So what are the solutions to the funding crisis?
In his address to the conference, Bill Gates emphasised the need to increase efficiency by driving down the costs of drugs and reducing the cost of delivery systems. However there was also a sense that to meet the challenge of the AIDS response, more resources are still needed.
Ambassador Eric Goosby , US Global AIDS Coordinator, speaking at a session on the future of universal access, emphasised that there is a need to “put resources on the table”. He highlighted that the US Government has struggled to maintain and increase its commitment, is open to expanding resource availability, but needs other donors to also commit to increasing their support for the AIDS response.
In a session on the third day of the conference Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund, and Philippe Douste-Blazy, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on innovative financing for development discussed the potential for innovative financing mechanisms to generate the scale of resources needed to respond to the AIDS pandemic, and other health and development issues.
Mr Douste-Blazy highlighted that “we have to ask heads of state to increase ODA and meet ODA targets, but we can’t meet MDG 6 with ODA only”. He then went on to explain the role innovative financing can play in helping to meet financing gaps and stated very clearly that a ‘Robin Hood Tax’, in the form of a currency transaction levy, is both economically and technically feasible and as a result we should be urging Heads of State to agree to implement such a tax when they meet at the next G8.
Dr. Kazathckine emphasised however that “innovative financing should not be seen as a substitute for ODA” and he highlighted that more action from donors and developing countries is needed to increase available resources. As he stated, “the minimum the world can do is allocate 0.7% to ODA”. In addition, Dr. Kazatchkine highlighted that not only do donor countries need to meet this long-standing commitment, but developing countries must also meet the commitments they have made to investing in health, achieving the commitment by African Governments, made in the Abuja Declaration, to allocate at least 15% of their national budget to health.