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AIDS Recedes as Home-Grown Funding Exceeds International Aid

Spending on AIDS by the countries hit hardest by the disease exceeded foreign aid for the first time last year, as developing nations lessened their dependence on rich countries that curbed donations to battle deficits.

Low- and middle-income countries have doubled spending on AIDS to $8.6 billion since 2005, compared with international funding for the disease that stalled at $8.2 billion last year, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, said in its annual report on the epidemic today.

Those investments helped curb deaths, which have dropped by about a quarter globally since peaking in 2005, according to the report. Still, the virus is spreading in the Middle East, North Africa, eastern Europe and Central Asia as epidemics driven by sex between men and injecting drug users go unchecked by poorly targeted or inadequately funded government programs.

“In many cases the investments are not sufficiently targeted at where the epidemic is really happening,” Peter Ghys, UNAIDS’s chief of data for action, said in a telephone interview. Some countries spend on preventing mother-to-child transmission instead of making investments that would have a bigger impact such as needle-exchange programs or condoms, Ghys said.

Sex Work or Drugs

New infections rose by 37 percent in the Middle East and North Africa between 2001 and 2011, and by 7.7 percent in eastern Europe and Central Asia, the report said.

“In the general population levels of HIV are quite low, but in several key populations in many of the countries in North Africa and Middle East there is substantial prevalence being measured,” Ghys said. “In Iran, most of the transmission is linked to injecting drug users. If you go to Morocco the current assessment is that most of the transmission is linked to sex work.”

New infections also climbed in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. New cases fell by 42 percent in the Caribbean, the region with the steepest decline.

Globally, the number of people newly infected with HIV last year fell to 2.5 million from 2.7 million in 2010, and AIDS-related deaths declined to 1.7 million from 1.9 million. The number of people with access to antiretroviral drugs has risen 63 percent over the past two years, according to the report.

While sub-Saharan Africa remains the region hit hardest by the disease, accounting for more than 70 percent of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths last year, the research shows that new cases have dropped by a quarter since 2001 and deaths have fallen by a third since 2005. South Africa, the nation with the most HIV infections, increased spending five-fold between 2006 and 2009.

About $24 billion a year will be needed by 2015 to meet targets of reducing new infections through sex and needle sharing by half, eliminating new infections among children, and expanding treatment to 15 million people, the report says.

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