As leaders of the world's richest countries flew into Germany for the G8 summit, international agency Oxfam urged them to make concrete financial commitments to fund HIV/AIDS programs in developing countries. With pre-summit emergency talks scheduled through the night, Oxfam said failure to act on health funding would leave the G8 responsible for needless deaths.
Max Lawson, Senior Policy Advisor at Oxfam said: "What we need to see from the G8 is money, not just another bland communiqué telling us HIV/AIDS is important. By 2010, 10 million people will need treatment, and 7 million need treatment right now. The G8 must stump up the cash now for universal access to prevention, treatment and care, as promised in 2005.
"Germany putting this on the agenda was a real opportunity, but squabbling and backtracking may squander that. In last minute talks, some countries, including Canada and Italy, are trying to avoid any mention of money. Negotiations are set to go on all night. The Germans should hold their ground until the checks are signed."
Oxfam also said that the G8 must agree to provide more money to address the shortage of 4.25 million health workers and inadequate health services in the developing world. Funding must be holistic and coordinated, as it is not enough to build clinics or fund new drug programs if there is nobody to administer them.
Lawson: "Today alone, while the G8 enjoys the sunshine and champagne, 4000 children will be killed by diarrhea and 1400 women will die in pregnancy and childbirth. It is within the G8's power to prevent these unnecessary and shameful deaths.
"Visiting hospitals in Malawi I have met nurses and doctors on 30 hour shifts, without proper breaks. They were exhausted but they didn't feel they could stop. In some places, life-saving drugs were available but are not being administered because there was no one to do so. This is what happens when the G8 renege on their commitments."
Oxfam added that trade rules were impeding access to affordable medicines by granting pharmaceutical companies monopoly rights that threatened generic competition and kept prices high. One out of every three people in the world today cannot afford the medicine they need to treat deadly diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Oxfam is calling on the G8 to:
- Provide an additional $21 billion in long-term, predictable aid to help developing countries to expand their public health services.
- Provide $10 billion in annual funding for HIV/AIDS and reaffirm their commitment to fully replenish the Global Fund
- Introduce a global, coordinated funding mechanism for health services
- Acknowledge the right of developing countries to use public health safeguards in international intellectual property rules to ensure access to affordable medicines for poor people
At the venue of the alternative summit, where campaigners have been gathering since Saturday, Oxfam staged a stunt, with 'Big Head' puppets of G8 leaders dressed as doctors and nurses testing the health of Africa, by holding stethoscopes to a map of the continent.