Shame on you

Shame on youOPINION: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been the international financial armada in the battle against the three diseases. The collapse of the next round of Global Fund grants, known as Round 11, is the most serious, catastrophic setback in the Fund's decade of existence. By Stephen Lewis.

OPINION: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been the international financial armada in the battle against the three diseases. The collapse of the next round of Global Fund grants, known as Round 11, is the most serious, catastrophic setback in the Fund’s decade of existence. By Stephen Lewis.

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Hiding behind the banner of the financial crisis, the donor countries have clearly decided that if budgetary cuts are to be made, the Global Fund can be among the first to go.

It’s terribly important to recognize the moral implications. It’s not just the fact that people will die; it’s the fact that those who have made the decision know that people will die. How does that get rationalized? How does that get dealt with in the inner sanctums of development ministries and cabinet discussions? What in God’€™s name do they say to each other?

They know, equally, that in the distribution of pain and suffering from AIDS, Africa is the epicenter. It has 68% of those living with the virus worldwide; it has 70% of new infections. They know that Africa is the one part of the world that cannot possibly reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. They know that many countries on the continent are reeling from poverty, conflict and disease.

What possesses the donor community to intensify the emotional and physical havoc?

Do they regard Africa as a territorial piece of geographic obsolescence? Do they regard Africans themselves as casually expendable? Is it because the women and children of Africa are not comparable in the eyes of western governments to the women and children of Europe and North America? Is it because Africans are black and unacknowledged racism is at play? Is it because a fighter jet is worth so much more than human lives? Is it because defense budgets are more worthy of protection in an economic downturn than millions of human beings?

I will never understand.

What happened at the Global Fund last week is of course merely the latest episode in the unvarying history of betrayal. Do you remember the G8 Summit in Gleneagles in 2005? The most solemn commitment was made to provide an additional $50 billion in aid to the developing world by 2010, $25 billion of which was destined for Africa. Come the Summit in 2010 (in Canada you will recall), the G8 was between $10 billion and $15 billion short of the target.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s words on the $50 billion pledge at the 2005 Summit are memorable: “This is what we declare. We are going to be held to this; we are bound by it; we are committed to it; judge us by it.”

What a craven politician.

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Remarks by Stephen Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World, delivered at a colloquium hosted by Yale University’€™s Global Health Leadership Institute and the Yale School of Public Health New Haven, CT, 5:30 pm, November 28, 2011 on the Gutting of the Global Fund