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Stark warning of gay HIV crisis in Latin America

NGO report warns of impending HIV crisis among gay and trans in Latin America
Gay Pride March in Buenas Aires, Argentina

Experts are warning of an impending HIV crisis among gay men and transgender people in Latin America as a result of vital funding cuts.

Millions of people will have to go without HIV services and many may die waiting for treatment as a result of the Global Fund's cuts to grants, according to a report by The International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

The organization which funds HIV prevention and treatment services worldwide announced it had cancelled its next funding round and that no new grants would be approved until 2014 because of a dramatic drop in donations and the global economic crisis.

Alliance's report Don't Stop Now claims the cuts will have dramatic consequences for LGBT groups, particularly in Latin America where, according to the NGO's regional representative Javier Hourcade Bellocq, 15 to 20% of gay men are living with HIV and, more worringly, 35 to 40% of transgender are HIV positive.

'Across the board, the resources available to work with gay organizations will be considerably less in the future,' Bellocq told Gay Star News.

'That, of course, affects the progress we are making in terms of not only the availability of condoms and lube, materials for HIV prevention, workshops and education, but also strengthening communities to become stronger players in the HIV response.'

LGBT groups will be hardest hit in conservative countries such as Bolivia, where governments are often unwilling to spend money on groups whose practices are often unpopular and/or criminalised.

Belocq added that those from the transgender community will be the biggest victims of the funding cuts.

He said: 'It will have huge implications on this group people. 

'Alliance are among the organizations which are at the centre of responding to the HIV crisis and strengthening LGBT organizations, but if you don’t have the resources to help these people and movements, we will be in serious trouble.

'The epidemic will continue to be concentrated among this group and grow. The life expectancy of a transgender person is 33 years old and the main cause of death is HIV.'

The Global Fund, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, began collecting donations from governments and private foundations in January 2002.

Since then, it has approved over $22 billion dollars for hundreds of programs in more than 150 countries.

About 50 countries have contributed. The United States has been the biggest donor, providing 33% of the funds pledged each year. In 2010, it pledged more than one billion dollars.

However, when the fund’s board met in Accra, Ghana, in November, officials decided to cancel the next funding round, round eleven.

Officials now say most of the more than $8 billion in donations expected to arrive by the end of 2013 will be needed to renew existing grants.

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance estimates the shortfall to be about $2 billion.

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