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Fully financing the HIV response would grow African economies by billions

Hester Phillips

03 May 2023

UNAIDS-supported analysis shows that fully financing the HIV response in 13 African countries will save millions of lives and produce huge economic, health and social benefits

Cute boy sitting back wrap sling of his mother
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour. Credit: iStock/ NickyLloyd

A new UNAIDS analysis shows that millions of lives will be saved, and billions will be added to economies if HIV responses in 13 African countries are fully funded to end AIDS by 2030.

What is this report about?

The report explores the potential gains if HIV responses are fully funded. And what will be lost if they aren’t.

The new UNAIDS report analyses what could happen in 13 African countries if all the resources were in place to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, against a scenario in which funding and service levels stay as they are.

Why is it important?

Recent global crises, such as COVID-19, have put huge pressure on funding for health, including HIV.

UNAIDS estimates that low and middle-income countries will need yearly investments of US$29 billion to end AIDS by 2030. But funding levels in 2020 were almost 30% below target. If trends continue, more than 7 million people will die from an AIDS-related death by 2030.

What does the report say?

Fully financing the HIV response in each country would increase the health and education of the current and future generation, leading to wide-ranging economic and social benefits.

It would result in 40% to 90% fewer HIV infections by 2030. Countries with very high HIV prevalence will have the biggest reductions. In South Africa, for example, full HIV funding would prevent an estimated 1.35 million HIV infections between 2022 and 2030. In Mozambique, it would prevent an estimated 810,000.

Fewer HIV infections overall would make a big difference to adolescent girls and young women who are at high risk of HIV in the countries analysed. It would help more girls and young women have good health, get an education and contribute to the economy. This could help to reduce gender inequality.

Fewer people of working age would get ill or die. This would grow countries’ economies. For example, if HIV funding targets were met, Kenya could see its gross domestic product (GDP) rise by 1.1% (US$1.3bn) by 2030. South Africa’s GDP could grow by 2.8% (US$17bn).

Fully financing the HIV response would also increase the number of children in school, especially girls who are more likely to miss school to care for ill family members. In South Africa, it could increase the number of girls in secondary school by 27,000 (0.9%) and the number of boys by 23,000 (0.8%) by 2030.

The number of children orphaned by AIDS would also fall. In Mozambique, for example, there could be 722,000 fewer orphans in 2030 if the HIV response was fully funded. This, combined with fewer children and adolescents getting HIV, would enable thousands more children to get an education.

The report suggests ways to raise domestic funds to finance the HIV response. This includes introducing pro-health taxes to generate revenue for healthcare, measures to ensure government revenue is spent on health, and ways to address tax evasion. Existing resources can be better used by integrating services and financing community-led responses.

What does this mean for HIV services?

This provides clear evidence that can be used to advocate for a fully funded HIV response. It shows the huge economic and social gains that countries could benefit from if politicians choose to invest in the HIV response.

The report can also be used to show that, if HIV funding does not rise, government budgets will continue to be taken up by the need to manage and treat HIV, creating less funding for the things that enable people and economies to thrive.

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