24 June 2009The global economic crisis that has forced cutbacks in Government spending also threatens efforts to mount an effective response to HIV and AIDS, according to the head of the United Nations agency coordinating the fight against the epidemic. “This crisis is a direct threat to progress in health and development and to our fragile gains in the AIDS response,” Michel Sidibé told the governing board of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) yesterday.In a wide-ranging “>address to the board, his first as the agency’s Executive Director, Mr. Sidibé noted that almost $14 billion was spent on AIDS last year. While calling for full funding to reach universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, he said the world can no longer afford to keep AIDS in isolation.“We must reposition UNAIDS in a crowded global health landscape. We must ensure that our future leaders stay focused on AIDS – not fatigued by it,” he stated.The challenge in the midst of the current crisis, said Mr. Sidibé, is not only how UNAIDS can do more with less, but how it can leverage existing resources and partnerships to produce more measurable results. Presenting his vision for future action at the agency, the Executive Director, who took up his post six months ago, committed UNAIDS to act on three fronts: to increase results and their impact, to optimize and expand partnerships, and to transform UNAIDS into a more efficient and effective organization.In this regard, he highlighted the new Outcome Framework, which commits UNAIDS to stand by people living with HIV and to enhance progress to ensure that people receive treatment. A key objective of the plan is to “break the trajectory of the epidemic” by putting the focus back on HIV prevention, which Mr. Sidibé said has been “systematically underinvested.”In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Dr. Paul De Lay and Ms. Jan Beagle as the Deputy Executive Directors of UNAIDS. Dr. De Lay will be responsible for overseeing the agency’s programmatic aspects and Ms. Beagle for management and external relations.