Countries debate paying more for AIDS epidemic

Global health experts and donor countries debated this week about whether more or less money should be invested to control the AIDS epidemic during a meeting at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC.

Approximately $7.6 billion was spent by donor countries in 2011, which some countries labeled as unfair given other health crises present in the developing world. In 2011, 720,000 people were killed by HIV/AIDS while 760,000 deaths were the result of diarrheal diseases caused partly by unsanitary drinking water, Nature reports.

"The unprecedented rise in HIV funding has come at the expense of non-HIV health funding," Roger England, the chair of the Health Systems Workshop organization, said, according to Nature. "Eight million kids die before their fifth birthday each year, and rarely from HIV. We've created a monster - an industry hungry for more money."

David Serwadda, the dean of the Makerere University School of Medicine in Kampala, Uganda, said that investment in AIDS is not a perfect system, but he said that progress has been made against the epidemic as a result of the money spent.

"The investment in AIDS has not only reduced morbidity and mortality," Serwadda said, according to Nature. "It has brought up issues of social justice, energized communities, and the most important point for me is that people are at the center of this response."

Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., said that AIDS funding shouldn't be completely eliminated but that reform must be made.

"Put yourself in the position of a Minister of Health whose donor resources have been flat-lined since 2008, who needs to decide how much tax revenue he should allocate towards AIDS," Over said, according to Nature. "There are 170 different health interventions that the minister could spend on, such as vaccination campaigns that are not currently funded that save millions of lives. Put yourself in the position of the Minister of Finance, who knows that transportation, sanitation and clean water also saves lives. So these other areas need to be ignored if we are to believe that HIV/AIDS the most sound investment. I am not suggesting that we should zero out AIDS. I would argue we need to balance health spending going forward."