AIDS conferees are urged to make their efforts more efficient
VIENNA — Two heavy hitters on the world health stage — Bill Clinton and Bill Gates — called yesterday for a more efficient fight worldwide against the AIDS virus.
In separate speeches at an international AIDS conference in the Austrian capital, the former American president railed against spending too much money on reports that just sit on shelves and urged that funds directly target AIDS sufferers.
Gates, the founder of
Clinton said many countries are misspending foreign aid. He said funding should go directly to local organizations, because developing countries can deliver health services at a lower cost and less overhead than established organizations.
“In too many countries too much money goes to pay for too many people to go to too many meetings, get on too many airplanes,’’ Clinton said. “Keep in mind that every dollar we waste today puts a life at risk.’’
The number of people taking crucial AIDS drugs climbed by a record 1.2 million last year to 5.2 million overall, the World Health Organization said yesterday.
Between 2003 and 2010, the number of patients receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment increased twelve-fold, according to the organization, based in Geneva.
“We are very encouraged by this increase. It is indeed the biggest increase that we have seen in any single year,’’ said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department.
Clinton also called on aid groups to remember that the world is awash in trouble because of the financial crisis.
“It is easy to rail at a government and say why doesn’t the government give us more money if they’re giving somebody else money,’’ he said.
“But the government gets its money . . . from taxpayers who have lower incomes today than they did two years ago.’’
Gates said although finding new funding is critical, more can be done with the resources already available.
The Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, one of the biggest funders of AIDS programs, has in the past found evidence of fraud in countries’ health programs — including Uganda and Zambia — and suspended their programs or tried to get the money back.
“Even if we advocate for more funding, we can do more to get the most benefit from each dollar,’’ Gates told delegates.
“If we push for a new focus on efficiency in both treatment and prevention and we continue . . . to create new tools, we can drive down the number of infections dramatically and start writing the story of the end of AIDS.’’
Activists, such as Asia Russell of the Health Global Access Project, scoffed at the mention of efficiency and said such concerns are misplaced.
“Unfortunately, the language around efficiency gets deployed, I think, often, as a distraction,’’ Russell said, adding that more funding is absolutely crucial.