HIV advocates worry about gains reversal from Trump’s budget proposal

World Today

The United Nations said for the first time, more than half the people with HIV have access to treatment. Southern and eastern Africa have shown the most progress in fighting the virus.

But advocates are worried by proposed budget cuts from the biggest donor nation, the United States.

CGTN’s Daniel Ryntjes reports from Washington.

More than half of all people with HIV live in eastern and southern Africa. The United Nations organization UNAIDS said that since 2010 AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42 percent and new infections are down by 29 percent. Still, globally 1.8 million people were newly infected in 2016.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts would reduce funding for global HIV programs by $1 billion.

“At this point in time they are abdicating their leadership; they are not living up to the global commitments to play in part in curbing the epidemic. And so we are almost at a crossroads and the US has a decision to make and that’s why we are looking to Congress. Are we really going to allow the US government to abdicate our leadership and our responsibility when it comes to our part in fighting global HIV,” Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity said.

Young women in Sub-Saharan Africa aged between 15 and 24 are at greater risk of HIV infection, with a 44 percent higher infection rate than their male peers.

“When you see this youth wave and you see the risk to young women. If in this moment we don’t figure this out and really get these programs to scale, we’re not going to have the impact on the epidemic we were hoping to have,” warned Deborah Birx from the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.

The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS relief, or PEPFAR set up a program called DREAMS two years ago to help girls and young women in 10 African nations.

The program recognizes that young women can only benefit from medical progress in treatment and prevention if they are empowered by better education and culturally sensitive healthcare and advice.

President Trump strengthened rules blocking funding for any groups that deal with abortion related issues, even if that involves simply providing advice, making it more difficult to support some projects.

But advocates have begun a determined effort to influence members of Congress who will organize and vote on the forthcoming budget, to ensure that the commitments on global HIV programs are maintained.