HIV-AIDS is a key priority for the Government. Ireland was one of the first donors to develop a HIV-AIDS strategy and we have worked to ensure that the issue is high on the agenda of the EU and of the UN's funds and programmes. Since 2001 Ireland's financial allocations to the fight against AIDS have increased tenfold with a budget allocation of €40 million in 2004, 10% of the total overseas development assistance budget.
These resources are directed at HIV-AIDS activities at the global, regional, national and community levels and are implemented through international and regional organisations and in our programme countries. The latter include six highly-affected countries in southern and eastern Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa, by far the worst affected region, is now home to over 26.6 million people living with HIV-AIDS. Approximately 3.2 million new infections occurred there in 2003, while the epidemic claimed the lives of an estimated 2.3 million Africans in the past year. HIV-AIDS has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities; it also has a profound effect on the social and economic development of countries most affected by the epidemic.
One of the most troubling consequences of the HIV-AIDS epidemic is its impact on children. Global success in combating HIV-AIDS must be measured by its impact on our children and young people. We need to ensure that children are getting access to the information they need to protect themselves from HIV and are getting the care and support they need in the absence of their parents.
In June 2001, a special session of the UN General Assembly on HIV-AIDS paid special attention to children orphaned and made vulnerable to HIV-AIDS, and set specific goals for the subsequent five years in its Declaration of Commitment. These goals underscore the importance of developing and implementing national strategies to strengthen government, family and community capacities to response to the crisis, ensuring non-discrimination and building international co-operation.
Ireland is contributing towards the achievement of these goals through its funding and support at different levels. We provide funding to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS, UNAIDS, the main advocate for global action on the epidemic. We are also a strong advocate and supporter of the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, GFATM, and are one of only a small number of countries to have fully honoured our pledge to the fund. Ireland has released €25 million to date.
Through our regional HIV programme in southern and eastern Africa, we are supporting a range of activities in the area of prevention and behaviour change; home-based care and orphan support; and countering stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV-AIDS.
All of the Government's programme countries in Africa — Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho — have very severe HIV-AIDS epidemics as does South Africa, where we also have an intensive involvement in the aid field. In each case our efforts are targeted at strengthening government capacity to respond to the disease and supporting district and NGO responses at local and community levels. In many cases funding is targeted at the provision of support for orphans and vulnerable children including ensuring access to education; provision of food and clothing; and psychosocial care.
Non-governmental organisations, NGOs and faith based organisations, FBOs, are important partners for the Government. They often bear the primary responsibility for delivering home-based care; support to orphans and vulnerable children; and much needed health services in highly-affected areas. Through our NGO HIV-AIDS Partnership Scheme the Government channels financial resources to Irish NGOs working in the field of HIV-AIDS. HIV-AIDS continues to be the biggest single obstacle to reducing poverty and to attaining the millennium development goals. Through the Development Co-operation Ireland programme, the Government will do all in its power to combat the pandemic at the global, regional and national levels in developing countries.