The End of AIDS is Near, But it Will Cost Us $7 Billion

One of the recurring mantra’s of the AIDS 2012 conference is “the end of AIDS is near.” This is more true now than ever before; thanks to global investments over the past ten years, AIDS deaths are firmly in the decline.

Technological innovations like cheap AIDS medicines; the ability to nearly eliminate mother-to-child transmission; and a “combination” approach to preventing the spread of HIV though condoms, circumcision and behavior change programs are putting humanity on the precipice of an AIDS free generation.

BUT…we are not there yet. What will take us to the end of AIDS? It mostly comes down to money. We know what kinds of interventions work. We just don’t have the money to scale up these interventions in a way that will reach nearly every-at-risk population.

Here are the numbers:

-The total global response to HIV/AIDS in 2011 was $16.8 billion

-Developing world countries contributed $8.6 billion to the response in their countries

-International assistance to low and middle income countries accounted for $8.2 billion (about 48% of which comes from the USA)

-Between $22-24 billion is required annually to fully fund the response.

This leaves a $7 billion deficit in AIDS funding. This is not a huge sum in budgetary terms, but it is the difference between containing AIDS and ending AIDS.  It is the difference between putting nearly everyone on AIDS treatments and only reaching 54% of people eligible to receive anti-retrovirals, which is where we are now. It is the difference between scaling up successful prevention programs or keeping them at the current sizes.

Just for comparisons sake:

$7 billion is about 1.12% of the budget of the US Department of Defense.

It is just about what the USA spent in Afghanistan in one month last year.

It is roughly what US federal investigators believe JP Morgan lost in sketchy trades.

The end of AIDS is certainly possible. We have the technology to make it happen. It is just a matter of mustering the political will around the world to boost funding levels. Once that happens, AIDS will have bitten the dust.