Written answers

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Department of Foreign Affairs

Overseas Development Aid

5:00 pm

Photo of Gerard MurphyGerard Murphy (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Question 26: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the specific Government programmes aimed at lowering the incidence of HIV and AIDS in the developing world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26911/05]

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Question 47: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on Ireland's efforts to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the context of the review of the eight millennium development goals; the efforts he has made to develop a well resourced long-term comprehensive plan on a global scale on HIV and AIDS prevention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26829/05]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 167: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the international community's efforts to combat HIV and AIDS in Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27269/05]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 169: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which financial and medical assistance is reaching persons most severely affected by AIDS and HIV in Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27271/05]

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I proposed to take Questions Nos. 26, 47, 167 and 169 together.

HIV-AIDS continues to be the single biggest obstacle to reducing poverty and to attaining the millennium development goals, MDGs. Current statistics from the United Nations joint programme on AIDS, UNAIDS, indicate that in 2004 almost 40 million people were living with the HIV virus. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the worst affected region and is now home to more than 25 million adults and children living with HIV. Approximately 3 million new infections occurred there in 2004, the majority in women, and more than 2 million Africans died in that year.

Ireland has a strong commitment to addressing HIV-AIDS. It is a key priority for Development Co-operation Ireland's policies andprogrammes. We were one of the first donors to develop a HIV-AIDS strategy which has served us well in guiding our response to this crisis. We have continually worked to ensure the issue is high on the agenda of EU and UN funds and programmes. Our financial allocation to the fight against AIDS now constitutes 10% of our total overseas development budget. Expenditure this year is expected to reach €50 million.

These resources are directed at a number of HIV-AIDS activities at global, regional, national and community levels and are implemented through international and regional organisations and in our programme countries. The latter include six highly affected countries in southern and eastern Africa. Ireland has and will continue to advocate for a strong response to HIV-AIDS through representation on the executive boards of UN agencies such as UNDP and UNICEF. In addition, we will continue to provide funding to UNAIDS, which is the main advocate for global action on the epidemic.

UNAIDS brings together the efforts and resources of ten UN system organisations to help prevent new HIV infections to provide care for those already infected and to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. It is widely recognised that UNAIDS is providing global leadership and is an example of UN reform in action. We are in the process of finalising a multiannual partnership agreement with UNAIDS which will see an increase in the level of resources allocated to it.

Ireland has been a strong advocate of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, GFATM, since it was established in 2001. As a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities, the global fund represents a new approach to international health financing. With more than $5.9 billion pledged through to 2008, the fund is a major contributor to the overall increase in resources to fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

The first replenishment conference of the GFATM was held in September last. Ireland was one of a few donor countries to announce a 50% increase in its funding to the fund. This commitment will bring our contribution to the fund to a total of €30 million in 2006 and 2007. We will continue to use our membership of the board of the GFATM to contribute to strategic policy orientation and ensure that experience from recipient countries feeds into policy dialogue.

The high level meeting to review the millennium development goals, MDGs, in September renewed international focus on tackling major diseases as priorities for development. The review acknowledged that the world has made significant progress in achieving many of the goals but that this progress has been far from uniform. Progress was noted in the increasing access to HIV treatment, particularly in developing countries, from a low 400,000 people on treatment in 2003 to more than 1 million people on HIV treatment today. However, this falls far short of the World Health Organisation's target to reach 3 million by the end of this year. Considerable additional effort is therefore required.

At the high level meeting, the Taoiseach reaffirmed Ireland's focus on HIV prevention as the mainstay of our overall response to HIV-AIDS. In his address, the Taoiseach announced a doubling of funding to tackle the major diseases affecting developing countries including HIV-AIDS. We will continue to work with the international community in advocating a sustained and resourced global response to HIV-AIDS, strengthened leadership at all levels, and improved coordination of resources and planning for HIV-AIDS prevention and control.

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