Fully Funded HIV Response Will Decrease New Infections by 40% to 90%
A woman prepares for an HIV test in Uganda.

Ensuring that the HIV responses in countries receive full funding will not only lead to a 40% to 90% reduction in new infections but also result in substantial social and economic benefits, a new report launched by UNAIDS said. 

The socio-economic benefits countries with a fully financed HIV response will gain are higher educational outcomes, especially for young women and girls, eliminating gender inequalities and the development of human capital. 

“Urgent and collaborative action is needed to re-prioritise financing towards the HIV response,” the report states. “Without this commitment and decisive action, the response to HIV will continue to lag, threatening to widen pre-existing health and socio-economic inequalities— young women, children and other vulnerable populations will pay the highest price.”

Economist Impact, an evidence-based policy research organization, conducted a quantitative analysis across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to arrive at these figures. The research and analysis was supported by UNAIDS.

The report, which was launched on Wednesday, compares two scenarios: one with 100% of the funding target set at the 2021 Political Declaration being met and the other with a “business as usual” (BAU) scenario in which the funding levels post-2021 are maintained as is.  

“This report comes at a critical time with evidence that should act as a catalyst for political decisions to ensure full HIV funding, that will have substantial social and economic outcomes,” Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, said in a press release

“It will put African countries on a path towards building more resilient healthcare systems and be better prepared for future pandemics.”

Fully financing the HIV response could lead to a 40%-90% reduction in the number of new infections compared with the figures if countries resort to the BAU approach. In countries like Mozambique and South Africa, where the HIV burden is high, this would mean a reduction in the number of new cases by 810,000 and 1.35 million respectively by 2030. 

Increased access to education

This gain will also impact young women, girls and people belonging to other vulnerable groups. “ For example, our findings show that if the full funding targets for HIV are met in South Africa, the female population aged 15-19 could account for almost 15% of the total reduction in new HIV infections between 2022 and 2030, despite making up less than 5% of the total population,” the report explains. 

Reduced mortality rates in people living with AIDS due to higher investment in HIV response will lead to a reduction in the number of children orphaned by AIDS. This will translate into higher enrolment rates and attendance in schools. 

“For example, a reduction of approximately 722,000 orphans relative to BAU is estimated in Mozambique in 2030 when full funding targets for HIV are met…We estimate an additional 87,000 children enrolled in school in Mozambique in a single year,” according to the report.

This could also lead to a decrease in the gender gap in access to education. If HIV response is fully funded in South Africa, the number of boys enrolled in secondary school in 2030 could increase by 23,000 and the number of girls enrolled in secondary school could increase by 27,000. 

Positive shift in human capital

Fully financing the HIV response brings with it a positive change in human capital development, according to the report. 

With a robust, dynamic HIV response, countries can reduce mortality rates among their working population, especially among those aged between 34 and 60 years. 

“In Mozambique, for example, the size of this cohort could be an estimated 2.4% larger under a full funding scenario, in contrast to the total population that is 0.9% larger under this same scenario. These changing population dynamics associated with investing in the HIV response give rise to greater economic opportunities by enabling growth in the workforce.”

The economic gains resulting from a well-funded HIV response could run into billions of dollars when compared with the BAU approach. 

“Our analysis finds that the GDP of South Africa, which has the highest burden of disease of the countries studied, could be 2.8% higher (equivalent to US$17bn) than BAU funding levels in 2030 if HIV funding targets are met,” the report points out.  

The 2021-Political declaration

In 2021, the UN member-states adopted a declaration to reduce the number of new HIV infections per year to under 370,000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250,000 by 2025. The member-states also committed to end pediatric AIDS, eliminate discrimination related to HIV and provide HIV treatments to 34 million people by 2025. 

Achieving these numbers would translate into preventing 3.6 million new HIV infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths by 2030. 

Image Credits: 2011, Sokomoto Photography for International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

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