The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria held a two-day conference with donors and other partners on how increased resources for the 2014-2016 period could dramatically alter the course of these three infectious diseases and bring them completely under control.
Delegates to the meeting saw a global needs assessment and heard presentations on new advances in science and implementation that can increase the impact of Global Fund investments to support partners fighting the three diseases and essentially remove them as threats to global health.
Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development and Cooperation for the European Union, which hosted the conference, called for more support from emerging countries and the private sector. French Development Minister Pascal Canfin, who also spoke, made a resounding call for an AIDS-free generation.
The conference was also told by health specialists that a big increase in impact could be achieved in many countries by focusing efforts on “hot spots” in countries where disease is most heavily concentrated, and by acting before diseases grow out of control.
“If we don’t seize this moment, we will be dealing with these diseases for generations,” said Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “These moments don’t come very often. We can achieve a historic change in the world and that is what we are on this planet to do.”
The Global Fund formulated a needs assessment for 2014-2016 showing that raising US$15 billion, when combined with funding from other sources, would have a transformative effect on the incidence and death rates of HIV, TB and malaria. The assessment was drawn up with technical partners at WHO, UNAIDS, Roll Back Malaria and the Stop TB partnership.
“We will need sustained commitments to the Global Fund – commitments which the European Commission is prepared to offer, despite the challenges we face in raising money in these testing times,” Mr Piebalgs told the conference, which ended on Wednesday.
But in order to persuade traditional donors to sustain their support for the Global Fund, emerging economies and the private sector need to bear a larger share of the cost of fighting disease, said Mr Piebalgs. “We need to look at reviving the initial idea of leveraging traditional with other contributions and vice-versa,” he said.
He also hailed a cultural shift from an emergency response to a more sustainable footing. “The medium-term goal is the integration of the response to these three diseases into existing national and international systems, particularly in sustainable, comprehensive and nationally owned strategies.”
The Global Fund recently launched a new funding model, which encourages and supports countries in integrating their HIV, TB and malaria investments into the overall national health strategies and strengthening their health systems.
The EU Commission has contributed US$1.48 billion to the Global Fund since its creation in 2002, making it the sixth largest donor to the organization.
The Global Fund and its partners estimate that together with other funding, including an estimated US$37 billion from domestic sources in implementing countries and US$24 billion from other international sources, a US$15 billion contribution to the Global Fund would allow the collective work to address nearly 90 percent of the global resource needs to fight the three diseases, estimated at a total of US$87 billion.
Forecasts presented to the conference showed that, with adequate funding, more than 18 million adults eligible for treatment could be on antiretroviral therapy by 2016, up from 8 million now; almost 6 million people could be saved from TB; and 196,000 more lives could be saved every year from malaria.
Collective efforts would also prevent more than one million new HIV infections each year, thereby saving billions of dollars in care and treatment costs in the long-term.
Rwanda, which has achieved universal access to HIV treatment was an example of what could be achieved with judicious use of resources for health programs, said Anita Asiimwe, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of public health. “The secret is to work when there is a great need.”
French Development Minister Pascal Canfin struck an optimistic note in an upbeat address to the conference, saying that the idea of an AIDS-free generation was a mere pipe dream when the Global Fund came into existence more than ten years ago. “We want this dream to become a reality,” he concluded.
Canfin also said it was a paradox that many of the Global Fund’s biggest financial backers faced unprecedented financial problems at a time when scientific progress was giving the world the means to control the three diseases.