Global good

The United States could make no better investment than backing the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria


The world’s largest funding source for fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria needs $15 billion over the next three years to control these global pandemics. Investment in the Global Fund will save not only millions of lives, but also tens of billions of dollars in treatment costs.

AIDS, TB, and malaria kill millions of people a year, while sucking billions of dollars from the global economy. At a so-called replenishment meeting on Dec. 3, which the United States will host in Washington, the Global Fund will ask for pledges totaling $15 million over the next three years, to save 6 million lives with vaccines and other low-cost but effective treatment and prevention measures.

Since its founding in 2002, the Geneva-based Global Fund has saved 8 million lives, but the fight against these diseases has reached a tipping point. With recent advances in science, medicine, and data collection, the global epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria can become, by 2016, a manageable health problem.

“People need to know how big this is,” Ken Patterson of RESULTS, an advocacy group that works to reduce global poverty, told The Blade’s editorial page. “We’re talking about finally controlling two diseases that have been around throughout history and a modern plague that has killed 35 million people.’’

But that can happen only with U.S. leadership. Historically, the United States has chipped in one-third of the Global Fund’s resources. That leverages commitments from other donor nations and private sources, such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Japan, and the Gates Foundation.

To reach the Global Fund’s goal, the United States needs to pledge $5 billion over three years. Not doing so, or falling short, would cost countless lives — and this nation’s moral leadership in battling the global AIDS crisis.

With Global Fund aid, countries have developed programs and doubled, over the past five years, the number of HIV-infected people in treatment to nearly 10 million. Anti-retroviral therapy reduces transmission risks by 96 percent.

TB cases that have been detected and treated also doubled to 11 million, with deaths dropping by 40 percent. More than 340 million insecticide-treated bed nets that protect people from mosquitoes that carry malaria have been distributed, helping reduce malaria deaths in Africa by a third.

Over the past decade, the Global Fund has supported more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries. Rural health workers supported by the Global Fund have also spotted other ailments, including pneumonia and child malnutrition, improving the prospects of future generations.

The Global Fund accounts for 25 percent of international financing to combat HIV and AIDS, as well as most of the global funding to fight TB and malaria. Full funding would enable it to support local efforts to reach people who live on the margins or with stigmas: sex workers, people who inject drugs, people in prison, and migrants.

The United States spends relatively little — less than 1 percent of its budget — on global humanitarian aid. The thought of millions of people dying from preventable diseases should prod this nation, and others, to act.

Nothing the United States could do would help more people, or create more international goodwill, than ensuring that the Global Fund meets its pledge goal next week.