Cambodia’s past success in driving down new HIV infections may be threatened by an anticipated reduction in donor funding of its AIDS program, according to a report presented to the National Assembly yesterday.
If the country prevents HIV effectively over the next two decades, infections per year could drop by half–but if its efforts stall then infections could nearly double, according to the report, which was conducted by the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD, the Finance Ministry and the Washington-based Results for Development Institute.
Cambodia, which last year saw an estimated 2,100 new HIV infections, must prepare for donors reducing their financial support, which currently funds 90 percent of the country’s AIDS program, ‘The Long-Run Costs and Financing of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia’ study said.
A decline in services, especially targeted prevention, could mean as many as about 3,800 infections in 2031, while maintaining current coverage would mean about 1,500 infections that year, the report predicted.
Robert Hecht, managing director of Results for Development, said that over the last couple of years donor funding for tacking HIV/AIDS has leveled off globally. “The story is not donors moving out, but donor assistance levels could fall,” Mr Hecht said. “Cambodia with its economy growing…should assume a larger proportion of funding.”
Cambodia can deal with the possible departure of HIV/AIDS funding partners by managing donor money as wisely as possible, manage a financing plan if partners walk out, and fill the gaps by raising government funds, said Richard Skolnik, a lecturer at The George Washington University who worked on the report.
“There is strong feeling among people in the government and development partners to prepare for the possibility that they are not going to have that 90 percent anymore,” he said.
The report’s authors recommend scaling up targeted prevention programs for at-risk populations, a strategy that would have the lowest cost, at just $5,000 per HIV infection averted.
Tia Phalla, deputy director of the National AIDS Authority, said that the government was discussing the most cost effective options with its donors.
One scenario outlined in the report, which includes targeted prevention among risk groups and a focus on prevention of mother-to-child transmission, seems most suitable, he added.