Global Fund hopeful about health targets Living with AIDS # 422

With the world just emerging from a recession, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will go cap in hand to a meeting with donors at the United Nations’€™ head-quarters in New York in October to request more funding to support AIDS, TB and Malaria programmes in the developing world over the next three years. This replenishment of funds is crucial as whatever that donors pledge to contribute will determine if developing nations will meet the United Nations’€™ Millennium Development Goals on health outcomes. Developing nations are signatories to a plan by the UN to reduce infant mortality, AIDS and Malaria amongst other public health challenges by 2015.  

‘€œIf we continue scaling up we should be able to reach or maybe even to exceed some of the health related MDGs. Malaria’€¦ we should be able to eliminate as a global public health problem in most endemic countries in Africa by 2015. Millions more HIV infections may be prevented through enhanced efforts in prevention and many millions (of) lives otherwise lost to AIDS saved by increasing the impact of treatment and we should be able to contain the threat of Multi Drug-Resistant TB and we could virtually eliminate transmission of mother-to-child HIV’€, asserts Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

But, he added, that these can be ‘€œeliminated only through sustained financial investment in health’€. Kazatchkine deplored the fact that babies are still born with HIV in the developing world.

‘€œIn Africa alone, last year, 400 000 babies were born with HIV. This is a moral outrage and a public health and a human rights disaster.   We have to continue investing in treatment and prevention and scale up the interventions’€, he said.

In its results report for 2010, the Global Fund says it has helped put more than two million people on AIDS treatment in less well-off countries since its establishment in 2003. Over the years, the Fund has committed over $19 billion in grants for AIDS prevention and treatment to more than 100 countries.

‘€œWe estimate that the programmes funded by the Global Fund have already saved five million lives and that they are saving 3 600 additional lives every day.

The Global Fund provides two-thirds of all of the international funding currently available for Tuberculosis and for Malaria.

In 2003 when the Global Fund started, hardly anyone was receiving antiretroviral treatment for AIDS in the developing world and prevention was under-funded. Today it is over four million people in the developing world that access antiretroviral treatment and a little over half of those ‘€“ actually 2.5 million people – are receiving anti-retroviral treatment with Global Fund support.

It’€™s a cumulative 800 000 HIV(-positive) pregnant women that have accessed treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV with Global Fund support’€, Kazatchkine, explains.

The recent recession has seen some donors reducing or not increasing their support for the Global Fund. If donors carry on this way, it will mean less or no money for countries relying on foreign aid. As a middle-income country, South Africa has contributed over $10 million to the Global Fund over the years. In the same period, the Global Fund has approved South African grants worth over $200 million, with the most recent grant having been approved last year. Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, appealed to rich nations to continue supporting the initiative.      

‘€œEven under these difficult economic circumstances, donor countries should be able to do so. In fact, we believe it is due to the difficult circumstances that they should do so because quite often when days are economically dark, one of the areas that is usually forgotten around in the world is health. We wish donor countries should be aware of that’€, said Motsoaledi.

Sounding a word of caution, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Sisonke Msimang said:

‘€œMany of the positive gains that we have seen are under threat. On the one hand because of the global financial crisis, but I think because in many ways these institutions have been a victim of their success. So, there is beginning to be a language that says ‘€˜there is too much money focusing on HIV and not enough going towards other kinds of health issues’€™.’€

‘€œI think it’€™s a debate that we need to take very seriously, but I think that it’€™s a wrong-headed approach to say that ‘€˜because we’€™ve seen success in HIV, we have not had success in other places’€™.’€, Msimang added.

The success of much of the developing world’€™s response to reducing AIDS depends on initiatives such as the Global Fund. The Fund’€™s ability to commit money to country programmes will be determined by donors at the October meeting at the UN head-quarters in New York.                            

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