A Strong Global Fund is Vital to an AIDS-Free Generation
July 24, 2012 BY Peter Yeo
Over the span of three decades, humanity has witnessed the rise of one of the world’s deadliest diseases, and also launched one of history’s greatest global attacks.
Just 30 years ago, AIDS was barely uttered in newspapers anywhere around the globe, let alone becoming a household term. Twenty years ago, AIDS became the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44. Ten years ago, HIV/AIDS had become the fourth biggest killer globally. Yet, at that same time, the world found hope with the launches of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund.
I vividly remember sitting at the table with the late U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos—a pioneer in the creation of PEPFAR in 2003—when he told me that we had a human obligation to end the epidemic. Not an obligation as policymakers, as Americans, or even as global citizens—though certainly responsibility weighed on those roles too—but as people who simply had the capacity, and thus the obligation, to help other people.
Today, I know Mr. Lantos—for whom we named PEPFAR’s reauthorization in 2008—would have been proud to see that, with continued bipartisan support, we are on our way to the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. The United States and the Global Fund are working hand-in-hand, furthering efforts to provide more than 8 million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral therapy, and approximately 1 million HIV-positive pregnant women with medication to prevent transmission to their babies.
In a few years, there’s reason to hope that no child will be born with HIV. In fact, as more than 23,000 people from over 195 countries convene in Washington this week for the 19th International AIDS Conference this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced more than $150 million in new U.S. spending initiatives geared toward leveraging our progress against AIDS.
“I am here to make it absolutely clear,” she said at yesterday’s kick off, “the United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation. We will not back off, we will not back down, we will fight for the resources to achieve this historic milestone."
The announcement comes on the heels of extraordinary progress and momentum. To date, the Global Fund has approved more than $21 billion in grants in more than 150 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment, and care programs, saving millions of lives. Moreover, it is providing 20 percent of the total global funding for HIV/AIDS programs while also empowering countries to develop proposals that reflect their own priorities and needs, and which can be self-sustaining into the future.
Without question, the Global Fund has been an essential component to achieving progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS – saving 100,000 lives per month. What’s more, it has demonstrated a sound return on investment for the U.S.: for every dollar the U.S. contributes to the Global Fund, two dollars come from international donors, including other foreign governments, international development partners like the United Nations, and the private sector.
It is also well worth noting that the Global Fund’s work has extended beyond addressing the AIDS epidemic, and in fact touches millions worldwide whose lives and families are threatened by tuberculosis and malaria. Indeed, as a result of its efforts, 8.2 million new cases of tuberculosis have been identified and treated, and 190 million insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to prevent malaria.
Such profound collective accomplishments have been hard-fought, and we cannot afford to retreat — even for a moment. At this week’s International AIDS Conference, we will hear a lot about progress in the fight against AIDS, as well as the work that remains. Yet I hope one message in particular will resonate with leaders and attendees: The challenge of ending this devastating and painful epidemic is monumental, but as we have already begun to see, it is not insurmountable. As global health leaders seek a pathway forward, the Global Fund needs our continued support—not just as governments, corporations, Americans, or global citizens—but, like Mr. Lantos said, as people.
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