Dáil Éireann - Volume 556 - 07 November, 2002

Written Answers. - AIDS Epidemic.

  131. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the additional measures he proposes to take regarding global efforts to combat AIDS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20977/02]

  Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): In July 2002, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS – UNAIDS – secretariat and the World Health Organisation reported that 40 [1383] million people were living with HIV or had developed full-blown AIDS. In 2001, over five million people were newly infected and over three million died of this disease. While the incidence of the disease is growing rapidly in the Caribbean, Asia and Eastern Europe, by far the worst affected region is the African continent. UNAIDS estimates that 25 million, or over 70% of the global total of people infected with HIV, are living in Africa. The percentage of the adult population living with HIV is estimated to be over 35% in Botswana and over 25% in Zimbabwe. In these situations, a child who is now 15 years old has a 50% risk of dying of AIDS in his or her lifetime.

  HIV-AIDS is a major public health and development challenge in all the countries in Africa where Ireland Aid has development programmes, i.e. Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria. Ireland Aid's response to the epidemic is guided by the HIV-AIDS strategy for the Ireland Aid programme, published in 2000. In October 2002 the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Kitt, launched a new booklet entitled Experiences and Lessons of Best Practice in Addressing HIV-AIDS to ensure that the funds available to Ireland Aid are spent effectively in responding to the disease.

  In June 2001, the Taoiseach headed Ireland's delegation to the UN General Assembly special session on HIV-AIDS. In his address to the General Assembly the Taoiseach announced that Ireland Aid would spend an additional $30 million on HIV-AIDS programmes in developing countries. Ireland Aid has, therefore, sharply increased its funding for HIV-AIDS programmes and will spend approximately €45 million in this area in 2002. These additional resources have enabled Ireland Aid to accelerate its response to this global threat to development. Over the past year Ireland Aid, using this additional funding, has increased its support to HIV-AIDS prevention and care programmes internationally, regionally and at country level.

  Ireland has contributed €10 million to the newly established Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria. We are financially supporting the development of both a vaccine against HIV and an effective microbicide. We have increased our contribution to UNAIDS and in 2003 will, for the first time, become a member of the programme co-ordinating board of UNAIDS, the body which oversees all UNAIDS activities. We have established a new HIV-AIDS fund within Ireland Aid, with a volume of €5 million, to assist the activities of Irish NGOs in fighting the epidemic. Additional resources have also been allocated within the Ireland Aid programme countries in support of HIV-AIDS-related activities. In September 2002 in Johannesburg the Taoiseach and [1384] Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, launched a new Ireland Aid regional HIV-AIDS programme for eastern and southern Africa.

  The report of the Ireland Aid review committee recommended that support for HIV-AIDS should continue to be a major priority of the Ireland Aid programme. The Government has endorsed that recommendation. I affirm that in the coming years Ireland will further deepen its engagement in the international effort to halt and reverse the spread of the epidemic and to help care for the infected and the orphaned in the poorest countries.