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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 09:53 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 09:53 | SYDNEY

The GFC and the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria

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1 April 2009 15:37

I'm in Caceres, Spain at a meeting of major donors to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The meeting is reviewing how well the Global Fund is raising revenues to meet demand from recipient countries as they mobilise to combat the three deadly, and preventable, diseases.

But the onset of the global financial crisis has dominated discussions here. Will the big donor countries be as willing and able to maintain the momentum of the Fund's activities when their domestic economies are in such dire straits? The review meeting heard some good, and some bad, news.

In a major report delivered to the Caceres meeting, we learnt that since it was founded in 2002, the Global Fund has supported comprehensive prevention, treatment and care programs in 137 countries through investments of $US7.2 billion. By December 2008, 3.5 million people who would otherwise have died of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the past five years are alive as a result of Global Fund-supported programs. These programs meant that:

  • 2 million people were receiving ART (antiretroviral) therapy for HIV infection
  • 4.6 million people were provided with effective TB treatment
  • 70 million insecticide-treated bednets were distributed to protect families from malaria.

The bad news is that donors, including Australia, made it clear that further replenishment of the Global Fund at the levels seen in the last full year of the global economic boom is going to be uncertain at best. The best estimates presented to the meeting were that between 2008-10,  minimum global demand for programs to keep bringing down the prevalence of the three diseases would be $US13.5 billion, while projected revenues from all sources would be about $US9.5 billion, a shortfall of $US4 billion.

The tremendous achievements of the last six years were made only because large amounts of money were finally put behind workable and effective containment strategies. If this flow of funds is reduced, more people will contract the three diseases, and many more lives will be lost.

However severe the global financial crisis might be in the rich countries, in the poor countries, the crisis will become a question of life and death. $US4 billion is, in contrast to the massive stimulus packages underwritten by governments (much less the bonuses paid to bankers and corporate managers) simply peanuts. Like all who attended Caceres, I know where the money would be better spent.

Photo by Flickr user YoHandy, used under a Creative Commons license.

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