Global Fund Crunch Threatens Millions of AIDS, TB, Malaria Patients

HYDERABAD(South India): The precious lives of millions of people suffering from  AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, that take a heavy toll of life every year across the world, are at stake with the Geneva-based “Global Fund(GF)” financing several countries to fight these diseases, announcing stoppage of funds till 2014.

Bogged down by allegations of  swindling and mismanagement of funds,  and the  crunch, triggered by the worst debt crisis in donor countries of Europe and the USA forced the GF to take this extreme step, ringing alarm bells in the beneficiary nations including India.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing institution that invests the world’s money to save lives. To date, it has committed US$ 22.4 billion in 150 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against the three diseases.

It was only a few days ago in Ghana that the Board of the Global Fund had adopted a 5-year plan to contribute substantially to international goals by saving 10 million lives and preventing 140-180 million new infections from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from during 2012-16.

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 22.4 billion for more than 600 programs in 150 countries. The Global Fund works in close collaboration with other bilateral and multilateral organizations to supplement existing efforts in dealing with the three diseases.

Lamenting the development, Mr.Manoj Pardeshi, National Coordinator, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition-India (ITPC-India) said the development had left a ‘ tremendous setback to the agenda of expanding AIDS treatment access for all those in need’.

”The Global Fund is one of the most significant institutions in a fight against an epidemic that claims three million lives a year, and in its ten years has played a critical role in strengthening health programmes in many countries. It has supported 3.2 million out of the 6.6 million people currently on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV,” he said.

These 3.2 million lives are now in jeopardy as funds dry up and existing treatment programs may have to shut their doors. People who would have been spared from death will now instead fall ill and die.

Ironically, such decisions are being made at a time when scientific evidence demonstrates that ARV treatment can both saves lives and prevent new infections. Rather than implementing ambitious plans to scale up the provision of treatment as outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in her address earlier this month, countries and communities will now need to discuss how best to manage a treatment scale-down, Mr.Manoj said.

The shortfall in funding for the Global Fund is $10 billion, an insignificant amount in comparison to the bank bailouts made by the US and European governments or even the bonuses set aside for Goldman Sachs executives this year.

Instead the Global Fund has put in place an emergency “transition mechanism” to safeguard only those countries that have current Global Fund grants and who will face program disruption between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014.

The restricted funding can only be used for essential prevention, treatment, and/or care services. However, such decisions will be devastating for organizations working in communities around the world.

Trends indicate that funding for HIV had already begun to fall flat by the end of the last decade. Last year the Global Fund failed to raise the minimum $13 billion that was needed to maintain its current programmes.

And of the overall $20 billion target, it raised roughly one-half, with $11.5 billion secured in pledges. To make matters worse, this year the Global Fund has been struggling with addressing the misuse of funds by recipients in a number of countries.

The lack of political and financial commitment to the AIDS response is deeply worrisome, and the millions of people living with and fighting against these deadly diseases will pay an enormous price.

Rather than building on the new evidence that AIDS treatment saves lives and prevents new infections and scaling up treatment programs to try to end this epidemic, donor governments are now implicitly supporting a policy of triage, determining who lives and who dies.

”Failure to invest in the fight against AIDS now simply means a return to the days of daily funerals and overflowing hospital wards. The virus doesn’t wait on the whims of donors,” he regretted.

The decision by donors will entrench the epidemic once again around the world, drastically increasing the costs of containing it when the world’s leaders once again wake up to the crisis around them.

The AIDS epidemic is far from over, but with a sustained commitment to comprehensive treatment, prevention and care services, it is still possible in our lifetime to create an AIDS-Free Generation.//EOM//

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About Bala Murali Krishna Yelchuri

Science Journalist,Media Consultant and Journalism Educator, based in Hyderabad,capital city of Andhra Pradesh State, an emerging Silicon Valley of South India.Born on August 10,1952, completed Ph.D.,M.Phil and MA in JMC, MBA in HRD,Dip in Teaching Journalism(Berlin) and Dip in Advanced Journalism(Praha). Worked for over 35 years in the premier multi-lingual national news agency - United News of India(UNI) -in different capacities and places in India. Happily married to Krishna Kumari and have daughter Krishna Jyothi(Journalist-Hyderabad) and son Vamsi Krishna(Engineer-Noida). Life member-Indian Science Writers Association and Master Resource Person to the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC-Ministry of S&T-Govt of India). Life member Museums Association of India and President, Andhra Pradesh Journalists Union (APJU).Core committee member Malkolak Knowledge Centre,Hyderabad.

One thought on “Global Fund Crunch Threatens Millions of AIDS, TB, Malaria Patients

  1. The_Global_Fund

    The Global Fund is alive and well, But Global Health Progress is in Peril
    Date : 01 December 2011
    By Simon Bland
    The rumors of The Global Fund’s demise are greatly exaggerated. At its last meeting, the Global Fund Board acted responsibly to transition to a new, more strategic approach to grant making that will begin in 2014.  To make a few things crystal clear:
    The Global Fund will disburse around US$10 billion in our current funding period, (2011 – 2013); US$2 billion more than what it disbursed between 2008 and 2010. This includes disbursing money to new, ambitious programs.  Efficiencies we have achieved in the past three funding rounds and in other areas will allow several countries to increase the number of patients receiving AIDS or tuberculosis treatment.  So more people – not less – will be given access to treatment in the coming two years. With the exception of one smaller country which has reduced its pledge by a few million dollars, all donors who made pledges for the 2011 -2013 period have kept them and have signaled that they are continuing to strive to pay in their pledges in full. The Global Fund has disbursed well over US$14 billion to more than a thousand grants in 150 countries during the 10 years it has been in existence. The vast majority of grants have delivered important results, helping to save millions of lives.
    But yes there are concerns and resources are limited. The Global Fund had originally hoped to have nearly US $12 billion available for this three-year period. We are living in uncertain economic times and budgets are strapped.  It would have been irresponsible to continue promising opportunities for additional funding when we are not sure we will have the money needed.
    Over the next year we will transform the way we make and manage grants to make sure all the money is spent as efficiently as possible to deliver the maximum health impact in the countries and for the people who need it the most. We will reassure donors that their money is safe and is invested as efficiently and effectively as humanly possible through the Global Fund. In so doing we will strengthen the confidence in the Global Fund. We will continue our strong efforts to mobilize as many resources as possible.
    As overall development aid to fight HIV and AIDS has reduced since 2009, and many ministries of health and non-governmental organizations have been looking to the Global Fund to offset some of this decline, we are aware of the heavy responsibility weighing on the Global Fund.
    We will speak tirelessly about the need to invest in global health: to continue the progress towards ending deaths from malaria, controlling TB and AIDS and dramatically reducing the number of people who die from these diseases. We will appeal to new fast-growing world powers to take on their part of the responsibility to finance this fight.  And we will demonstrate again and again that the Global Fund is changing to continue this fight for the next decade.
    Many countries have counted on this extra funding opportunity to do their part in achieving the global health goals the world aspires to by 2015. The fight does not stand still: we either win this fight or we lose it. Hundreds of millions of bed nets are protecting nearly half of Africa’s children against malaria, but every three or four years they must be replaced.  Doctors and nurses around the world have been able to reassure the millions who do not yet have access to AIDS or multi-drug resistant TB treatment that the queues are getting shorter. What if they get longer again?
    The Global Fund has set as a goal to help save 10 million lives between today and 2016. The postponement of new funding is a setback to that goal. But with a successful transformation responding to the recommendations of the High Level Panel, and with the help of our donors, this goal is still achievable.  
    Simon Bland is the Chair of the Board of the Global Fund.

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