The UK, which had funded UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV & AIDS, £15 million a year for the past five years, has just announced it plans to provide only £2.5 million this year – a more than 80% cut.
This slashing of UNAIDS’ budget mirrors drastic cuts across the board for HIV civil society and community organisations doing critical work in the HIV response. This includes £72 million in loss of funding for IPPF which will mean massive reductions to the U.K.’s flagship WISH (Women’s Integrated Sexual Health) programme. This initiative delivers life-saving contraception and sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls in some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities.
These cuts couldn’t have come at a worse time for the HIV pandemic. AIDS remains the number one killer of women of reproductive age and 1.7 million people acquired HIV in 2019. COVID-19 is now threatening to reverse years of progress and increase deaths, with nearly 75% of lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs disrupted.
These cuts could jeopardise UNAIDS’s work supporting some of the most marginalised people, including LGBTQI+ people in developing countries who face arbitrary arrest; hurt its work to help girls education and empowerment; and lessen its ability to help countries end AIDS – furthering the continuation of a pandemic that threatens us all. People who use drugs, sex workers, people in prison and LGBTQI+ populations account for a small fraction of the world’s population, but globally (together with their sexual partners), comprised 62% of new HIV infections in 2019.