Panama City: The top UN anti-AIDS official warned today that the growing fight against terrorism risks squeezing budgets for scientists who hope to stamp out the disease within years.
UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe said that as countries invest in security to counter threats such as what he called last week’s “barbaric” attacks in Paris, AIDS research funding risks getting cut.
“I am scared because of the crisis, the migrant population, all the problems of security, terrorism,” he told AFP during a visit to Panama.
“To focus, rightly, on those issues could really take some resources out of social and development programs.”
UNAIDS and other bodies estimate that of the 314 million people affected by humanitarian crises worldwide, some 1.6 million have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Sidibe said the victims of such crises were even more vulnerable since some of them interrupt their AIDS treatment when they are displaced.
He expressed hope that HIV will be practically eliminated as a public health threat.
“I would not be surprised… That in probably in 10-15 years we will be able to have a functional cure or vaccine,” Sidibe said.
But the UN warns that in order to do so by 2030, USD 32 billion a year will be needed over the next four years.
“The biggest problem, to be honest, to have a vaccine, is that we are seeing a reduction in research funds.
“Any time the world has faced major security issues, of course, the priorities will be how to address the problem of security,” Sidibe said.
“Unfortunately the implicit impact is that investments and attention that should go to social sectors, particularly health and education, will be reduced, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.