Last month's (22 June) announcement of searing, emergency budget cuts in the UK and a number of European countries struggling with unmanageable debt, it is clear that the banking sector needs to take responsibility for the effect this crisis is having not only in the UK and Europe but on HIV services, health and development in poorer countries.
Anton Kerr, Head of Policy at the Alliance expressed his frustration. “It is simply unacceptable that the poorest are paying for this crisis. Partners in Uganda are struggling to get ARV treatment for people living with HIV and meanwhile the banking sector continues with their business as though they had no responsibility for this situation.
“We are pleased to see in the UK government’s budget announcement today, that they are taking steps to regulate and redress the balance of power the banks have had. There is wide support for financial levies on the banks amongst European governments but today the UK have missed an opportunity to raise more money for the poor. The announcement of £2bn bank tax is well under the £20bn a financial transaction tax such as the Robin Hood Tax could raise,” Kerr added.
The Alliance has been part of a global campaign to push for a financial transaction tax to raise much-need revenue for health needs in developing countries and in the UK. Support for financial levies has been expressed by a number of governments including the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and the European Commission.
While decision makers have discussed mechanisms to tax the banking sector, there is no word yet of whether any potential funds raised will be channelled into providing for those who are innocent and yet deeply affected by the financial crisis.
The Alliance has welcomed the new UK coalition government’s commitment to ensuring that overseas development aid is not reduced and is focused on delivering clear impact and results.
“We support the UK government’s move towards communities playing a more integral role in healthcare services and its something the Alliance has long advocated for but we are concerned that any shift in emphasis away from funding for HIV and AIDS means people living with HIV will die because they can’t get treatment,” said Kerr.
The Alliance is conscious that there is a critical need to scale up HIV prevention efforts to stem the increase in the number of people who are becoming HIV positive. In new research launched last week at the Global Health Council’s conference in Washington, economist Robert Hecht predicted that by 2031 future spending on HIV will need to be well above current spending levels, ranging from $19 billion to $35 billion a year.
Last year the world spent roughly $13 billion and treatment alone will consume over 70% of the total cost of fighting AIDS in countries with the highest rates of infection, such as Botswana and South Africa.
“It is not sustainable to treat the growing numbers of people living with HIV so we must step up efforts to prevent people from becoming HIV positive in the first place,” added Kerr. “This is why we are launching a campaign later this year, Breaking the Barriers, to call for better monitoring of funding for both prevention and treatment so the money that is available is being used to maximum benefit.”
Watch this space for further news on the Alliance campaign.