The organizers of the conference, which brings together the very best of global research until Wednesday at the Palais des Congrès, issued a “Paris Declaration” to express their fears, even before the opening of the meeting.
“No end of HIV without research and no research without lasting investments”, proclaims this text. If he does not name Trump’s United States by name, it is they who are targeted.
“Lives risk being lost unnecessarily,” worries South African researcher Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), which is co-organizing the conference with the French AIDS research agency, the ANRS.
The United States is historically the largest contributor to the fight against AIDS, by far: it alone accounts for more than two-thirds of international government funding.
Last year, they spent $ 4.9 billion (4.2 billion euros) on AIDS programs, far ahead of the United Kingdom (645.6 million) and France (242 , 4).
However, President Donald Trump is proposing to reduce this spending in the 2018 budget, currently under discussion in Congress, for a global amount estimated at more than one billion dollars by the American NGO Health Gap.
The absence of Macron regretted
We must “reduce funding for several health programs, some of which relate to AIDS, considering that other donors should increase their contribution,” Trump wrote in May in a draft budget.
If adopted by Congress, these cuts will deprive 830,000 patients, mainly Africans, of antiretrovirals, treatments that prevent the development of the virus, estimates the Kaiser Family Foundation.
They will also cause 200,000 new infections, predicts this American non-profit organization specializing in health policies.
Among the planned cuts, a 17% drop in the US contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It would only amount to $ 1.13 billion, or 222 million less than in 2017.
“The United States represents about a third of the total financing of the Global Fund, so a drop of 17% in their contribution would really be a thunderclap”, fears Alix Zuinghedau of Coalition Plus, a group of associations fighting against AIDS .
Coalition Plus, Act-Up Paris and Aides also regretted the absence of French President Emmanuel Macron at this conference, a sign according to these associations of a “disengagement from France” “comparable to that of Donald Trump”.
Another unknown: the budget devoted to Pepfar, the program initiated in 2003 by George W. Bush and which allows more than 12 million patients to benefit from antiretroviral treatments.
“We are not talking about a simple risk of slowing down the fight against AIDS: these budget cuts could lead to a real turnaround in relation to the progress we have made”, insists Mrs Bekker, for whom it would be “a tragedy”.
Because this progress is significant: since 2005, the number of deaths from AIDS-related diseases has been halved worldwide (one million in 2016), announced Thursday the UNAIDS, the UN coordination program.
Last year, 36.7 million people were living with HIV and more than half (19.5) had access to treatment.
In 2016, $ 19.1 billion was raised by public and private donors around the world for the fight against AIDS.
It would take 26.2 to be sure to achieve by 2020 the goal set by the UN: that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, that 90% of them are on treatment, and that among those – ci, 90% have an undetectable viral load.
“We are maximizing the use of each available dollar but we still lack 7 billion,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said on Thursday.