The Global Fund fights AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria

Nov. 16, 2013 @ 01:51 PM

During the first two weeks of October, members of Congress orchestrated a government shutdown that resulted in an incredibly wasteful $24 billion hit to the U.S. economy. Think of this contrast: With a pledge of just $5 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States could set the stage to save 10 million lives over the next three years. Here’s how.

On Dec. 3, the U.S. will host the Global Fund’s “replenishment meeting” in Washington, D.C., where donors will pledge their contributions over the next three years. Based on the demand for resources, and a game plan bringing these diseases under control, the Global Fund is working to raise $15 billion at that replenishment meeting.

Historically, the U.S. has contributed one third of the total resources to the Global Fund; by law the U.S. cannot contribute more than that. Just weeks away from the Dec. 3 conference, the U.S. has an exciting opportunity to leverage robust pledges from other donors. The U.S. should demonstrate its commitment to ending these diseases by announcing a commitment to $5 billion over the next three years. For every dollar the US puts into the pot, other donors have to put in 2 dollars. So to raise the full $15 billion, we need other donors and the U.S. to step up to the plate.

Created in 2002, the Global Fund is a multi-lateral partnership that has significantly galvanized resources to successfully combat the three pandemics of AIDS, TB and malaria. It has developed a model that highlights the power of partnerships between government, civil society, the private sector, and communities living with the diseases. Countries submit grants outlining project goals and implementation strategies, and the Global Fund picks the best ones and funds them, tracking where the money goes. The Global Fund doesn’t implement programs but ensures that plans are sound, and provides resources to fight the diseases in countries suffering the most.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed amazing results due to Global Fund support. Today, 5.3 million people are receiving anti-retroviral therapy to treat HIV/AIDS; 11 million cases of TB have been detected and treated; and 340 million insecticide-treated bed nets have been distributed to protect families from malaria because of the Global Fund.

As an added plus, the work of the Global Fund has proven impact beyond the prevention and treatment of AIDS, TB and malaria. For example, in the process of bolstering the number of rural healthcare workers to administer disease programs, systems are now in place to spot other acute or chronic illnesses, such as pneumonia or child malnutrition. Just think of the extended impact on future generations.

Treating and eventually eradicating AIDS, TB and malaria is not only about survival. It is about giving people the opportunity to have productive lives – to raise their children, to contribute to their communities, to strengthen the economies of their countries. Listen to Linda Mafu, a passionate HIV/AIDS activist from Cape Town, South Africa, former executive director of the World AIDS Campaign, and now head of civil society and political advocacy at the Global Fund:

“During the period of 1998-2007 I had to dress up for funerals because my friends and family members were dying. We cried, looked for people to blame, we felt guilty for not doing enough. When a person tested HIV positive, s/he was told to go home and write up a will so that s/he could die in peace.
“We had no hope that we would ever defeat this disease. Family ties were broken, families became poor because the breadwinners were sick and dying. Families became poor because the money they had, had to be spent on treatment, transport and hospital charges.

“When the Global Fund supported the rollout of treatment in our country we celebrated. We have moved from having 0 people on treatment in 1998 to 1.8 million people on treatment today.
“People are taking their treatment, they are back in their workplace, they are supporting their families and they are living dignified life. … We are almost there now, so don't let go, not now.”

Infectious diseases don’t patiently hang around waiting for opportune moments for us to tackle them. They can and will return with a vengeance if we take the short-sighted approach of ignoring this historic chance to defeat them. Please urge President Obama and our senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress to announce and fulfill a three-year pledge totaling $5 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

With a relatively small investment from us, just think of the huge payback we will receive for the health of our global community and future generations. In the words of my Zambian friend and TB/HIV activist, Luwiza Makukula, “It’s a relatively small amount, but it goes so far.”

Heather Stein is a volunteer with the local chapter of RESULTS (www.results.org), a citizens advocacy organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty. Contact: Triangle RESULTS www.triangleresults.org triangle.results@gmail.com