The Rolling Stones nailed it when they said, "You can't always get what you want." Today, after world leaders here in Washington pledged a combined $12 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria, it's tempting to be disappointed because global health advocates were hoping for a $15 billion commitment. It's especially frustrating because more than $1 billion in grants from the U.S. and UK will go unmatched because other nations didn't make bold enough pledges.
But I see the glass half-full and recognize that this is the largest sum ever committed to the Global Fund and will allow it to reach even more people affected by AIDS, TB and malaria in the years to come.
Without a doubt, the Global Fund represents one of humanity's great success stories. Since its creation in 2002, it has supported more than 1,000 programs in more than 140 countries, providing AIDS treatment for 6.1 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 11.2 million people and 360 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.
And it's not just governments saving and improving peoples' lives. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced plans to nearly double its contribution to the Global Fund to as much as $500 million; coupled with matching grants from other donors, this could mean a total $1.6 billion allotment to the Fund. And the private sector has pledged more than $600 million to the Global Fund to date. In fact, (RED), a division of The ONE Campaign, has generated more than a quarter of a billion dollars to the organization from the private sector in the past seven years.
As we move forward, it is crucial that donors provide additional resources to the Global Fund to turn the tide against these three killer diseases. This is especially true with HIV/AIDS, as a new ONE report has found that, if current rates of progress continue, the world will reach "the beginning of the end of AIDS" as early as 2015.
Getting to this point in the AIDS fight would've been unimaginable 25 years ago, when two public information officers at the World Health Organization in Geneva brought the idea of World AIDS Day to their boss, Dr. Jonathan Mann. At the time, the disease was devastating whole communities while much of the scientific and political establishment looked away because of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Back then, the only drug available to treat the disease cost thousands of dollars and was unavailable to millions who needed it. Today, treatment costs less than an iPhone and reaches into far corners of the world. In 1988, if you were diagnosed with AIDS, you went to a hospice and prepared to die. Today, you go to a hospital for treatment and then likely return to your family, school or job.
Ironically, the AIDS fight today is struggling precisely because of this success. Because the disease is no longer perceived as a global health emergency, but rather a chronic and manageable disease, the fight has lost some of its political momentum and funding has not grown to match the global need. UNAIDS estimates that the AIDS fight is still at least $3-5 billion short each year.
We've lost 35 million people to AIDS since the disease first came on the scene. And another 35 million are living with HIV today. Even though there's no vaccine or cure, we have the science and expertise to prevent transmission. It is entirely possible -- but not inevitable -- that this generation will be the last to suffer from the disease. The only variable is whether there is the will to make it happen.