President Obama + AIDS-free Generation Promise = Fully-Funded Global Fund

President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gestures as he gives his
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gestures as he gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)

During the annual U.S. president's State of the Union many of us become scavengers. We sit on our sofas and barstools and pick over the speech's sentences, words and nuances trying to find hidden crumbs -- those tiny nuggets that might impact the issues we work on and care about.

Last year I went hungry. President Obama didn't mention international development or specific global health challenges likes AIDS. Not even once. This year I was glad I wasn't on a bar stool because I would have fallen off when I heard:

So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades, by connecting more people to the global economy, by empowering women, by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed and power and educate themselves, by saving the world's children from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.

While there are many important nuggets (eradicating extreme poverty -- yes please!) to ramble on about, for me, the promise of an AIDS-free generation is the biggest tangible opportunity right now. An AIDS-free generation is within our reach -- but the choice President Obama makes in the next few weeks on the budget he sends to Congress will be more than a signal -- it has the potential to accelerate progress around the world in a serious way. Or not.

As the president and his team head into the final weeks of deciding their budget, a decision on what to commit to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria will be made.

We will not realize an AIDS-free generation without a fully-funded Global Fund. As the world's main multilateral funder of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria control and care, Global Fund-supported programs for prevention, treatment, and care are estimated to save 3,600 lives per day -- or over 1.3 million lives per year.

Read that last sentence again.

We must all keep up the pressure, and remind President Obama that supporting the Global Fund is the first opportunity he will have to keep his promise of leading us to an AIDS-free generation.

As Mark Dybul, the new Global Fund Executive Director puts it: "We can either seize this moment and save countless lives and billions of dollars down the road by containing these epidemics, or we can tell our grandchildren why we didn't when we had the chance."

Kolleen Bouchane is the director of ACTION, a global partnership of advocacy organizations working to influence policy and mobilize resources to fight diseases of poverty and improve equitable access to health services. ACTION's current focus issues are tuberculosis (TB) - the leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS -- and increasing equitable access to childhood vaccines.