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By Peroshni Govender
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Declining donor funding for HIV/AIDS could have catastrophic consequences for millions who need treatment and undo progress made in fighting the disease, aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.
An estimated 33 million people around the world are HIV positive, the bulk of cases emanating from the developing world which relies on donor aid to reduce infections and treat carriers of the disease.
While poor countries that have developed ambitious plans based on Western financial aid to counter the spread of the disease have made progress, MSF said in a report the global economic crisis now threatened to reverse those gains.
"...Recent funding cuts mean doctors and nurses are being forced to turn HIV patients away from clinics as if we were back in the 1990s before treatment was available," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.
In 2008 international advocacy group UNAIDS estimated that $22 billion (13.3 billion pounds) was needed to fight AIDS but donors have only committed $15.5 billion so far.
MSF warned that funding for HIV/AIDS appeared to be shrinking, threatening "a devastating impact on people living with HIV/AIDS as well as efforts to prevent new infections."
The report called on major donors: the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden to increase their contributions towards fighting AIDS.
The report said the burden should not be placed on developing countries which have made bold treatment plans.
"What about the promise made to people with AIDS? We gave them hope and life," said Olese Pasulani, an official at an MSF clinic in Malawi, where an AIDS epidemic has left more than a million children orphaned in a country of 13 million people.
"Passing on the bill for treating AIDS to very poor countries would be a colossal betrayal."
According to MSF, over 4 million people in the developing world are on anti-retroviral treatments and about six million are still waiting for the life-saving medication.
The organisation runs AIDS programmes in 30 countries, providing treatment to about 140,000 adults and children.