Fully financing the HIV response in Africa to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 will save millions of lives and improve economic outcomes. But governments must act immediately. That’s the message from new research and analysis conducted by Economist Impact in 13 African countries, including South Africa.
The report titled A triple dividend: The health, social, and economic gains from financing the HIV response in Africa, compiled by UNAIDS reveals that fully financing the HIV response will not only save lives but also produce substantial health, social, and economic gains.
The report, released Wednesday, warns failure to secure the required funding to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 will lead to substantial health, social, and economic costs. In 2022, SANAC estimated that 350,470 females aged 15-24 received an HIV diagnosis in South Africa. Investing more in HIV now will lead to fewer deaths, new infections, and improved education, and will free up resources for Universal Health Coverage.
The report highlights a glimmer of hope for young women in South Africa. If South Africa meets the targets for fully financing the HIV response, women aged 15-19 will account for almost 15% of the reduction in new HIV infections by 2030, despite making up less than 5% of the total population.
Meeting 2030 HIV target will improve socio-economic issues
The report projects meeting the 2030 target will see South Africa’s GDP increase by 2.8%. This is a clear indication that fully financing the HIV response is not just a health issue but also an economic one.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, says this report is a critical catalyst for political action towards full HIV funding and substantial social and economic outcomes.
“It will put African countries on a path towards building more resilient healthcare systems and be better prepared for future pandemics,” says Byanyima.
The report shows funding levels in 2020 fell almost 30% below targets, making upcoming targets even harder to achieve. UNAIDS projects that over 7 million AIDS-related deaths will occur by 2030. But a fully funded HIV response and proper polices could prevent half of those deaths.
“Not only would there be between 40% and 90% fewer new HIV infections, depending on the country. But investing in the HIV epidemic would also enhance educational outcomes, especially for young women and girls, reduce gender inequalities and boost economic growth, “ reads the report.
The Role of Community Networks in HIV response
Economist Impact’s Rob Cook says African countries face significant challenges in securing resources to increase domestic HIV funding. Cook suggests policymakers use existing financing and community networks more effectively.
“Drawing on existing community-centred networks could play a key role in both mobilising additional resources for the HIV response and ensuring that it is equitable and reaches those most in need,” says Cook.
The report notes global crises like Covid-19 have hampered HIV efforts and financing for health and other Sustainable Development Goals.
“Young women, children and other vulnerable populations will pay the highest price as pre-existing health and socio-economic inequalities widen. The significant fiscal challenges facing African countries have limited their ability to increase domestic funding of the HIV response and constrained overall health budgets,” reads the report.
UNAIDS estimates low and middle-income countries require US$ 29 billion annually to meet 2030 targets of ending AIDS as a public health threat. The report highlights that enhanced HIV financing can benefit young girls and women the most, reducing inequalities and addressing gender disparities.
“Our findings also indicate that young girls and women, who are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic stand to gain the most in relative terms from enhanced financing for the responses to HIV. These findings shed light on the potential benefits that could be realised in reducing inequalities and addressing gender disparities through investment in the response to HIV,” the report states. – Health-e News