Oxfam criticises DFID’s new strategy as a “missed opportunity”

As the government launched its new AIDS strategy for developing countries on 2 June, Oxfam was quick to praise the long-term commitment of substantial funding to strengthen health systems but expressed disappointment that the strategy lacked a specific spending target for tackling HIV and AIDS.

Speaking at the launch, Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, announced that DFID will spend £6 billion on improving health systems and services in poor countries in the run-up to 2015. This announcement is in addition to the £1 billion over 7 years committed last year to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

He also announced that DFID would provide £100 million over the next six years to help improve Nigeria’s national response to HIV.

“The announcement of this much needed long-term financial commitment to help strengthen health systems in the developing world is a very welcome one. It could help to pay the salaries of millions of health workers worldwide,” said Phil Bloomer, Oxfam’s Director of Campaigns and Policy who attended the launch. “But we have to remember that tackling the AIDS epidemic is about more than just health systems. It is also about factors such as education, awareness raising, counselling, and the provision of security of food and income for all those who need it, whether infected or affected.

“While many will welcome today’s announcement, some will feel that the abandonment of a clear spending target sends out a worrying signal to other international donors who look to the UK’s example to help define their response.

“The Government is right to point to the strong leadership role it has repeatedly played in shaping the global response to tackling HIV and AIDS,” said Bloomer. “But by not having a specific spending target for HIV, the government has missed an opportunity to put pressure on other donors to scale up their response to the HIV epidemic.”


This is a very welcome statement from Oxfam on this very unwelcome development from DfID. It is disturbing and shocking that DfID thinks that AIDS can be handled under the larger umbrella of budget support to individual countries for health and development.

In reality, HIV-positive citizens in most countries are rarely prioritised and this policy shift will have an impact on the direct health gains and lives saved that are the direct results of ‘vertical’ HIV programmes.

Most HIV-positive advocates in resource-limited settings owe their lives to HIV-specific programmes.

This threatens to reduce contributions to the Global Fund, to dedicated AIDS, TB or malaria funding despite the wider positive impact that HIV programmes have had on overall health infrastructure in the countries where they operate.

Source: Oxfam press statement 2 June 2008

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