France slashes HIV budget

Unitaid
French President François Hollande (Centre) alongside UNITAID director Dr. Phillipe Doust-Blazy and Bill Gates at a dinner held for the charity in 2014.

France has this week reduced its HIV prevention budget for 2015 after a 15% cut in contributions to the international anti-HIV project UNITAID.

In 2014 France contributed 100 million Euros to the project, led by the World Health Organisation, that works to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in lower-income countries. Following budget recalculations proposed last year France will now contribute just 85 million Euros in 2015.

The choice to cut the official budget was blamed on budgetary austerity, as well as France’s commitment to combat the Ebola epidemic, which has taken up a large amount of the country’s humanitarian budget.

News of the cuts were announced by a press release put out by several French health organisations committed to fighting HIV and AIDS, who spoke out against the government’s decision to reduce French contributions. According to these groups “this is the first time since the appearance of the AIDS virus that a French government has decided to reduce its contribution to the global effort.”

Despite the cuts France remains the largest contributor to UNITAID, contributing between 50 and 60% of their total funds. The country is also seen as a global leader in combating HIV in the developing world.

These cuts signal the latest blow for HIV and AIDS prevention, which suffered heavily in 2014 due to a global trend which saw many countries divert funds towards the prevention of Ebola.

Global changes in humanitarian aid prompted by the emergence of Ebola have worried many groups working in health and development. According to some, government funding and charity contributions for HIV prevention have been diverted towards the fight against Ebola, leading a deficit for many.

Many experts see actions of countries such as France as being irresponsible and short-sighted. According to the WHO 35 million people were living with HIV or AIDS in 2014. It is believed that the reduction to UNITAID’s budget will affect thousands across the developing world.

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