No time for complacency

OPEC Bulletin Commentary April 2005.

The OPEC Fund for International Development increases funding against HIV/AIDS with fresh approvals.

In the world of oil and oil markets one might wonder what OPEC Member Countries have to do with combating the spread of AIDS. The answer should not come as a surprise to those who know OPEC well, because over the past 29 years, its sister organization, the OPEC Fund for International Development has given more than $330.5 million in grant assistance for a host of important activities, including the global campaign against HIV/AIDS.

Since 2001, the Fund has committed over $26m from the $35m set aside for the AIDS cause. In effect, this means that in the four years since the HIV/AIDS account was launched, commitments under it have grown to represent more than eight per cent of the Fund’s total, cumulative grant approvals.

It was the disparities that existed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in the 1970s, and the concern at the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ which prompted the Member Countries of OPEC to found the OPEC Fund to address the needs of societies and people less fortunate than themselves. Although the Fund was established at the height of the North/South debate, little has changed since in the way wealth and indeed health are distributed across our planet.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is claiming lives and decimating families and communities the world over. It is also having a devastating impact on the economies of developing countries, by depleting the workforce and hindering productivity. Its destructive impact is well-documented, but this recognition needs to be backed up by greater commitment and concrete action.

HIV/AIDS is often tainted by cynicism and doubt. However, doubt should not be allowed to play a part in trying to help improve the welfare of others; rather hope must be high on the agenda, and it’s in this sense that the Member Countries of OPEC and the OPEC Fund have continued to pledge financial assistance to those in need.

The world has known about HIV for over 25 years now, and yet the battle against the spread of the virus is as urgent now as it has ever been. The statistics make for worrying reading, as many experts say that little has improved in terms of infection rates and combating the spread of the disease, especially in developing countries, and in particular in Africa. Increasingly, women are the victims of HIV/AIDS, which is a terrible indictment of those who continue to ignore the severity of the virus or the status of women in society.

It has been recognized that education is the key to success because the disease can only be slowed if people are willing to take the necessary precautions and responsibilities associated with halting transmission of the virus. Governments around the world should be on high alert because, cultural issues aside, the losses to the world’s labour force and productivity through premature death should itself be enough to combat any inertia in dealing with the virus in a systematic and effective way.

OPEC’s sister organization, the OPEC Fund, recognizes this and continues to give to the cause. The latest commitments, totalling $7.75m and approved and signed at the March Session of the Fund’s Governing Board, will co-finance three major initiatives: with the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization and UNESCO.

This Commentary is taken from the April 2005 edition of the OPEC Bulletin, which can be downloaded free of charge in PDF format from the OPEC website.

OPEC Bulletin (April 2005)

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