06 October 2010

$11.7 Billion to fight Aids & TB

Donors committed $11.7 billion to fight Aids, TB and malaria for the next three years, far below the $17 billion needed to meet UN goals to slow and beat the killer diseases.

Donors committed $11.7 billion (about R75.5 billion) to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria for the next three years, far below the $17 billion (about R 115 billion) needed to meet UN goals to slow and beat the killer diseases.

The contributions to The Global Fund to fight the three pandemics represented a more than 20% increase over the $9.7 billion (about R65.9 billion)pledged for 2008-2010, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed saying the money "is enough to give millions of people living in fear a new lease on life."

The Global Fund's executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, said that he is concerned because the $11.7 billion will slow expansion of existing programs and therefore delay efforts to beat the three diseases and inevitably cost lives.

Many organisations involved in fighting the diseases were highly critical of donor nations, especially the United States, though the Obama administration increased the US contribution by nearly 40%.

Sad turning point against the diseases

"Today marks a sad turning point in the fight against Aids, TB and malaria, as world leaders have officially underfinanced The Global Fund," Dr. Jennifer Cohn of Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. "This decision will result in the death of millions of people from otherwise treatable disease."

The Global Fund, a private-public partnership and the dominant financier of programs to fight the three diseases, had proposed three scenarios to scale-up programs to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.

They include halting and starting to reverse the HIV/Aids pandemic and the incidence of malaria and other diseases by 2015. According to the UN, tuberculosis remains the second leading killer after HIV.

Donated money simply not enough

Kazatchkine said the fund put $13 billion (about R88.4 billion)as a minimum needed for 2011-2013 to start significantly increasing its programs, $17 billion as the minimum to reach or come close to the UN goals known as the MDGs, and $20 billion (about R 136 billion)to scale up adequately to ensure the goals are achieved.

"Obviously, with less than the low scenario ... the effort will now decelerate and not scale up at pace," he said.

Kazatchkine said it was "disappointing so soon after the MDG summit" just two weeks ago where world leaders renewed their commitment to reach the targets by the 2015 deadline.

"I am committed to continue a relentless effort to seek the additional resources needed to meet the MDGs," including through new innovative sources of financing, he said.

The secretary-general said that "we don't have any clear, definitive formula" for new financing, but he said the Group of Eight major industrialised nations and the Group of 20, which includes both advanced and emerging economies, are discussing how to fund global health issues and climate change because the global economic crisis has forced many governments to institute austerity programs.

Strong encouragement

Ki-moon said he was "strongly encouraged by the leadership of the United States, France, Japan, Canada, Norway and Australia, all of which announced major increases" in support for the Global Fund.

He also commended "important commitments" from the European Commission, Germany, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chevron, Russia and China, and new contributions including from the United Methodist Church, Takeda Pharmaceutical, and the Gift from Africa Initiative.

The United States announced it intends to seek $4 billion (about R67.8 billion) from Congress for the Global Fund for 2011-2013 - its first multiyear pledge.

Many organisations involved in fighting Aids expressed disappointment, noting that 101 Democratic members of Congress asked President Barack Obama to make a $6 billion (about R 40.8 billion) pledge.

"Even in this time of economic crisis, President Obama has found billions to bail out Wall Street and to continue wars - we urge him to find a way to do the same to save lives around the world," said Health Gap, which campaigns for affordable HIV/Aids treatment.

(Sapa, Edith M Lederer, October 2010) 

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