The 50th meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) which began on 21 June has closed with decisions to strengthen access to HIV services for the people most vulnerable to the HIV pandemic and measures to help close the funding gaps in the global HIV response, including financing for UNAIDS.
Financing shortfalls in the global HIV response continue to limit progress in key areas, especially for vulnerable groups of people. At the end of 2020, only US$ 21.5 billion was available for the HIV response in low- and middle-income countries-far short of the US$ 29 billion needed by 2025 to get on track to end the AIDS pandemic as a global health threat by 2030. Similarly, UNAIDS capacities have been eroded by the underfunding of the Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF). To achieve progress, save lives and ensure that people living with and at risk of HIV have access to the services and resources they need, the global AIDS response must be fully resourced.
In her opening remarks to the meeting, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, described the AIDS response as being under severe strain with the fresh challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and economic crisis. However, she said she was confident the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026, which is focused on closing the inequalities driving the pandemic, could overcome these crises if fully resourced.
The PCB took note of the UNAIDS budget shortfall and the challenging resource mobilization environment and called on donor governments to release their contributions towards the 2022-2026 UBRAF early and to make multiyear contributions, and to strongly consider increases to their contributions to facilitate a strong UNAIDS response to the Global AIDS Strategy.
It requested the rapid establishment of an informal inclusive task team of interested PCB members, observers, cosponsors, PCB NGO delegates and other stakeholders to provide options for resolving the immediate funding crisis for the 2022-2023 biennium and to report back to the PCB bureau by the end of July 2022 on outcomes and recommendations of these discussions. In advance of the next UNAIDS Structured Financing Dialogue, it called on the PCB Bureau to utilize the informal multistakeholder task team to develop recommendations on voluntarily based sustainable funding of the UBRAF, to be presented and discussed at the next PCB in December 2022.
During the meeting, there were welcome increased funding pledges to UNAIDS. The United Kingdom announced an increase in its funding to £8 million for 2022, up from £2.5 million in 2021. In doing so, the UK emphasized the importance of sufficient, predictable and timely funding towards enabling UNAIDS to deliver on its mandate. Furthermore, Germany will raise its contribution to €6 million, up from €5 million before, in recognition of UNAIDS for its work to help maintain HIV and other health services in conflict situations around the world, including in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. Members also warmly acknowledged the United States’ contribution of an additional US$ 5 million for UNAIDS work, taking its contribution to US$ 50 million.
In his remarks to the PCB, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, Peter Sands, stressed the importance of the Global Fund’s 7th replenishment meeting being held in the United States in September, which aims to reach an US$18 billion target to continue the organization’s work. Mr Sands also called for UNAIDS to be fully funded.
“Financing the entire AIDS response to end AIDS by 2030 means fully funding ALL the partners,” said Mr Sands. “UNAIDS presence at the country level supports across the full grant development and implementation, ensuring that countries’ proposals for Global Fund programmes are well designed based on science, providing vital real-time data, and helping governments make key enabling policy and programme changes and resolve bottlenecks, is vital to ensuring that the work of the Global Fund succeeds. To enable us, fund us and UNAIDS. In full.”
In his first public appearance since being confirmed in his post by the United States Senate in May, the US Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, John Nkengasong said that it was key for both the Global Fund and UNAIDS to be fully funded to secure further progress against the HIV pandemic.
“The Global Fund is essential. UNAIDS is essential. These institutions are as important to each other as they are to the countries they support.”
Ms Byanyima updated the PCB on action taken in three global strategic initiatives: Education Plus, the Alliance to Eliminate HIV in Children and the 10-10-10 targets from the Political Declaration. Turning her attention to the war in Ukraine, Ms Byanyima said UNAIDS had worked closely with the Ukrainian government, communities, civil society and partners including the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to ensure that sufficient supplies of HIV medicines had reached Ukrainians inside and outside the country.
Ms Byanyima said scientific progress in the AIDS response had the potential to save many more lives if inequalities in access could be overcome.
“Recent scientific developments, such as long-acting HIV technologies, hold great potential. UNAIDS is building an alliance on access to long-acting injectables and is actively engaging with cosponsors, scientists, the private sector and civil society to take this forward.”
However, she told board members that the recent World Trade Organization meeting on a TRIPS agreement waiver had not made the hoped-for progress.
“The global rules of trade and intellectual property continue to allow for-profit companies to set public health policy during global health emergencies. And they are choosing profits over saving lives,” said Ms Byanyima.
The PCB concluded with a thematic segment entitled Positive Learning: harnessing the power of education to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination and empower young people living with HIV, which included powerful contributions from young delegates taking about the need to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination and the importance of comprehensive sexuality education.
The meeting was chaired by Thailand with Germany serving as the Vice-Chair and Kenya as Rapporteur. The report to the Board by the UNAIDS Executive Director, the reports for each agenda item and the PCB’s decisions can be found at 50th meeting, UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, 21-24 June 2022 | UNAIDS
Board members agreed that the 51st meeting of the PCB in December 2022 should be held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations-UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank-and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org