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Good Reads: On World AIDS Day, global relief funding stalls

The results from international public funding for AIDS treatment have been impressive, but the Global Fund has suspended new funding, and US papers give World AIDS Day a pass.

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So this year, on World AIDS Day, there is some food for thought: What would the world have been like without a vigorous, bipartisan, publicly funded initiative to find a solution to the AIDS crisis? What will the world be like if such publicly funded programs are stopped?

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If you’re looking for a well-reported news story on all of this, give yourself some time. AIDS has been around so long now that stories about it tend to have drifted to the living section or the opinion pages.

Probably the best piece you'll read in the American press comes from The Atlantic magazine, and it's an interview with an American doctor, Edward Atwater, who collected AIDS awareness posters from around the world. As someone who remembers when it was illegal to discuss contraception, Dr. Atwater's memories are a kind of time capsule that reminds us how far the United States and indeed the world have come since 1981. 

The British press seem to have done a better job. Here’s an interesting interactive map of AIDS prevalence in the Guardian, relying on a data spreadsheet from UNAIDS, the UN agency dealing with AIDS. The map shows where AIDS is more prevalent among adults ages 15 to 49, according to data.

In the London newspaper the Independent, Jeffrey Sachs makes a vociferous case for the need to continue AIDS funding, and takes the Obama administration to task for being “mostly disengaged” on development issues. And he warns that the fight against AIDS is “at risk of collapse.”

To understand the enormity of the US abnegation of responsibility, it is important to understand the scale of the US economy. The US economy is big – roughly $15trn [trillion] per year – so that $1.3bn per year is small. With average incomes around $50,000 per American, the Global Fund pledge amounts to $4.20 per American. Another metric is also helpful. The US military burns through $1.9bn per day, $700bn per year. The Global Fund pledge, now in tatters, amounts to around 16 hours of the annual Pentagon spending.

Other than that, there's not much good reading on AIDS on World AIDS Day. I’ll let Michael Sidibe, the executive director for UNAIDS, have the last word. Here, he responds in a video to questions sent to him by Africans over Facebook.

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