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AFRO-NETS> UN slated by Short for 'hyped' AIDS fund

UN slated by Short for 'hyped' AIDS fund

Special report: 

Sarah Boseley in New York
Wednesday June 27, 2001
The Guardian 

The global health fund conceived by the UN secretary general to com-
bat HIV/Aids has been vastly over-hyped, will not get near its $7bn-
$10bn target, and should not be seen as the answer to the pandemic in 
the developing world, Clare Short, Britain's international develop-
ment secretary, told the Guardian yesterday. 

The hyperbole around the scale and purpose of the fund devised by 
Kofi Annan was, she said, "a piece of nonsense". 

"Nobody could administer such a fund," Ms Short said in an interview 
in New York, where she was attending the special UN session on Aids. 
She thought the fund would reach $1bn a year at the most, including 
the $200m her department has pledged, matching Washington's contribu-

Her remarks follow a hard-hitting UN speech in which she told the as-
sembled heads of state and ministers that actions, not more meetings, 
were needed to combat the disease. "It is my strongly held view that 
we waste too much time and energy in UN conferences and special ses-
sions," she said. 

"We use up enormous energy in arguing at great length over texts that 
provide few, if any, follow-up mechanisms or assurances that govern-
ments and UN agencies will carry forward the declarations that are 

Poor countries were having to commit ministers, officials and re-
sources to participating in a UN talking shop, when such people were 
needed to tackle the desperate problem HIV/Aids poses at home, she 
said later. "I have had so many people from developing countries com-
ing along and saying, you are right." 

Ms Short hit out at the spin around the global fund, which would play 
no more than a small part in the development work of donor countries 
such as Britain, she said. So far, the fund has pledges of a little 
less than $600m. Britain's contribution, she added, was conditional 
on the fund being administered in a way of which Britain would ap-

She hoped it would operate like Gavi (the Global Alliance for Vac-
cines and Immunisation) which has brought prices down in developing 

Part of the global fund - as yet it is unclear how much - would be 
used for bulk buying of medicines for TB and malaria, infections as-
sociated with Aids, and items such as insecticide-impregnated bednets 
which could save the lives of a million children in Africa. 

Anti-retroviral drugs, whose prices recently began to tumble in the 
developing world as a result of pressure on the drug companies, "will 
be part of it, but they have to be responsibly made available," she 

More important is the continuing development work, in which Aids is a 
problem also linked to poverty and poor nutrition and to other dis-
eases such as tuberculosis. The most important achievement of the 
global fund would be to encourage developing country governments to 
spend more than the 3 [Pounds] a person they spend on health on aver-
age each year. 

Ms Short is not the only critic of the UN special session. There is a 
real danger that it may end today without the unanimous declaration 
of commitment to fighting the pandemic which was its purpose. Islamic 
countries are battling to keep out references to protecting high-risk 
groups, such as men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and 

Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001


[Short's public speech follows -- reproduced under 'faire use' 
by C. Labadie ]


25 JUNE 2001 


There is no need for me to repeat the terrible statistics of the se-
riousness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is a cause of enormous suffer-
ing, premature loss of life and a terrible barrier to development - 
especially in sub-Saharan Africa which is already the continent suf-
fering the largest and deepest poverty. But no country or people can 
be complacent. HIV/AIDS is spreading across the world, particularly 
in Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and Russia. Everyone is vulner-
able. And there is still no cure. It is absolutely inevitable that 
the pandemic will spread to more people and more countries before 
things start to get better. We must urgently do more to prevent this 

We have, I am afraid, no reason to congratulate ourselves on the 
holding of this meeting. We have been aware of the infection for 20 
years and that it was spreading out of control for at least 10 years. 
And we must not fool ourselves that the holding of a UN Special Ses-
sion leads to any automatic improvements in prevention or treatment. 
Indeed it is my strongly held, view that we waste too much time and 
energy in UN Conferences and Special Sessions. We use up enormous en-
ergy in arguing at great length over texts that provide few, if any, 
follow up mechanisms or assurances that governments and UN Agencies 
will carry forward the declarations that are agreed. It was agreed, 
for example, at Cairo +5 in New York - that we would all work for a 
25% reduction in transmission of HIV/AIDS in young people in worst 
affected countries by 2010. We should now be asking every country, UN 
agency and government to report annually on progress against these 
already agreed targets rather than launching another general declara-
tion. However, as we are here, we must make the best possible use of 
this meeting and try to use it to energise a world wide effort to 
contain the spread of the disease 

We are all aware that some countries have taken brave and intelligent 
action which has slowed down the spread of the disease. Uganda and 
Thailand have set an important example in successful prevention. Pre-
vention remains the most important work because there is still no 
cure for HIV/AIDS. We must, of course, press on with research for a 
vaccine and for Microbicides. We must make anti-retroviral drugs 
available, where we can do so responsibly. But let no one pretend 
that anti-retrovirals are a cure or that whatever the price, most 
people who are infected will receive them. The truth is that most 
poor people who are infected are not served by any basic health care 
system and most suffer with poor nutrition and little basic care. We 
must do more to make condoms and drugs available but be absolutely 
clear that without a much greater commitment to building basic heath 
care systems, the overwhelming majority of the more than 30 million 
people who are already infected will not be helped. 

Twenty years of experience in our own country and internationally has 
taught us that if we are to prevent the spread of the infection we 
must speak openly about the epidemic and deal with stigma and dis-
crimination head on. We know which behaviors lead to greatest risk of 
transmission. We must in each of our countries directly, openly and 
honestly engage in a debate on ways to promote and protect the health 
of those at greatest risk of HIV infection. This means the vulnerable 
groups which all can accept - children, adolescents and refugees - 
but it must also means the other groups who have a heightened risk of 
infection. And let me say to those countries and organisations that 
do not wish to mention these high risk groups, that if you fail to 
face up to the need to take action to protect such groups, you will 
sentence your countries to higher rates of infection. All countries 
have in their populations men who have sex with men, commercial sex 
workers who have clients and intravenous drugs users who have sexual 
partners. If we fail to work together to remove the denial, the stig-
matization and the discrimination that exists we will fail to prevent 
the spread of the infection. Open and honest debate, and the sharing 
of knowledge and information is essential if we are to make progress 
in tackling HIV/AIDS. 

Work must also continue to search for a vaccine. In Europe and Amer-
ica the pharmaceutical companies are driving forward this work. But 
we must ensure that work continues to develop a vaccine for the 
strain prevalent in Africa and other poor countries. We salute IAVI's 
initiative in organising the funding for the important work that is 
taking place in Nairobi and South Africa and call on development 
agencies and charitable foundations to continue to fund this work. It 
is also crucial that we take forward urgently the development of a 
microbicide so that women are in a position to protect themselves. 
More than half the new infections are amongst young women who fre-
quently lack the confidence or power to refuse sex or demand the use 
of a condom. A microbicide would give them the power to protect them-
selves. I hope the pharmaceutical companies and others will join 
Rockefellar, Population Council, the Medical Research Council and 
ourselves in ensuring this work is taken forward. 

I want to conclude with a word on the proposed Global Health Fund, 
which needs the support of this meeting, the G7 and the whole inter-
national community, so we can have it up and running by the end of 
this year. This fund is designed to provide drugs and commodities for 
the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. It cannot 
fund the development of health systems - they must be provided by 
governments with the help of development agencies. But the health 
fund can ensure that drugs are available, at reasonable prices and 
encourage the development of effective delivery systems. We want to 
model the fund on the success of GAVI, the Global Vaccine Initiative, 
which has increased the availability and reduced the price of vac-
cines in the poorest countries. We believe the Global Health Fund can 
bring down the price and increase the supply of drugs and commodities 
for TB, HIV/AIDS, and Malaria and also encourage research for new 
drugs. To be a success it needs, like GAVI, a small effective secre-
tariat and a lean governing body that includes representatives of the 
UN system, development agencies and developing countries. The UK 
stands ready to contribute $200 million to the fund if these condi-
tions can be agreed. 

My hope - Chair - is that this meeting will spur us all into action. 
We know what needs to be done. The lessons of best practice are sum-
marised in the declaration. We must go home and implement. There have 
been enough conferences and declarations. What we need now is urgent 
and much more effective action on a much wider scale to prevent the 
terrible suffering, loss of life and costs to development that this 
terrible disease is inflicting across the world.

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