FREEDOM AND SAFETY
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has published the first edition of their Goalkeepers report, a comprehensive study that includes over a dozen public health measures across the globe. One of the metrics discussed is HIV infection, the virus that cause AIDS, which Bill Gates called “the worst humanitarian disaster of my lifetime.” Regarding the virus, the study had some staggering findings coupled with startling predictions of future trends.
According to UNAIDS, 36.7 million people were living with HIV in 2016, 1.8 million of those were new infections, and there were one million deaths from AIDS related illnesses. Today, the infection rate may be lower than it was at the turn of the century, but the rate still stands at 0.14 people per 1,000. This slowing of infection rates can be attributed to the swell of funding that the Gates’ foundation and others with complementary goals have contributed to the cause.
Last year, $19.1 billion went to fight AIDS and HIV globally, and around $8 billion of that money came from the US. Now that funding is in jeopardy. As Business Insider points out, Gates has stated that “without the proper funding, the virus could make a dangerous resurgence.”
The Trump administration is seeking to cut that necessary funding by seventeen percent, while Bill Gates is calling for an increase in funding. Gates and other experts are afraid that a decline in already established funding will have dire consequences for not only new infection rates, but also for the number of lives that are able to be saved with proper treatment. “If things go wrong, even just a little bit, the infections could spread much faster and the epidemic could spiral out of control,” Timothy Hallett, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, tells NPR.
A team of analysts reviewed the foundation’s report and found that a progressive cut of even ten percent percent of funding through 2030 will result in death tolls skyrocketing by a third. This could cause the deaths of 5.6 million more people within that short time. Also, some models predict that infection rates will surpass even those of the 1990s, when HIV transmissions were at an all-time high.
The foundation is focused on deploying funds and resources for quelling new infections. Gates looks to prevention as the best course of action to stop the spread of the virus. “In the meantime, if we don’t spend more to deliver the tools we have now, we’ll have more cases,” he wrote. “If we have more cases, we’ll need to spend more on treatment, or people will die.”