Yesterday, the UK government made a historic commitment to transforming the lives of the world's poor. It is a signal of its' ambitious intent that is nevertheless grounded in hard evidence: evidence that now tells us that we can bring the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics under control.
As I have mentioned here before, the Global Fund is engaged in a process to replenish its funds so that it can continue to deliver impressive results. Yesterday's announcement from the UK has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Global Fund is a key partner in bringing the 3 epidemics under control.
The UK has pledged £1 billion pounds ($1.6bn USD) over the next 3 year replenishment period, which is a massive leap forward towards the Fund's target of securing US $15 billion. We now look at the rest of the world to ensure that this year's replenishment (for 2014-2016) is a huge success. This is a substantial increase from the UK's previous commitment - but relies on the rest of the world taking on the challenge of fully funding the Global Fund as the £1 billion will only be released if we hit the $15 billion target.
We know that for every pound pledged to the Global Fund, more lives will be saved. Last Friday, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced new mid-year results. Compared to end of 2012, they show some impressive gains in a relatively short period of time:
Global Fund supported Interventions (comparing end 2012 to mid-year 2013 results)
People with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy:4.2 million to 5.3 million
Insecticide treated-nets to prevent malaria:310 million to 340 million
Detect and treat TB cases (smear-positive cases): 9.7 million to 11 million
If fully realized, the 1 billion pound UK pledge could save a life every 3 minutes, every single day for the next 3 years.
As the Board Member representing communities affected by the three diseases, I've dedicated much of the past year to advocating around the Global Fund, including sharing my thoughts here with you. I work a lot with women and girls affected by both HIV and TB who for a number of biological, social, cultural and economic reasons are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV, TB and malaria. For example, it is estimated that in the absence of HIV, maternal mortality worldwide would be 20% lower.
Pregnancy reduces a woman's immunity and makes her more susceptible to malaria and TB infection and complications from a woman having those in pregnancy can be deadly: malaria alone causes as many as 10,000 maternal deaths each year. TB increases by 2-3 fold the risk of maternal and infant mortality, and in 2009 10 million children were orphaned by TB.
Today's pledge from the UK is and should be seen as a challenge. A challenge to other global leaders who have yet to announce commitments. A challenge given the ongoing and urgent need, coinciding as it does with my own loss of one of my first cousins to AIDS who we will bury today.
This announcement by the UK should be seen as a worthy investment in bringing hope to the thousands around the world, who are totally relying on the Global fund to access and maintain treatment. In talking with British advocates it is clear that this pledge has only been possible thanks to the leadership of British PM David Cameron and the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition on development. Earlier this year, the same coalition government announced they would deliver on the promise to devote 0.7% of GNI to development.
In the past, I have travelled to the UK and spoken to many British politicians, policy makers, advocates and ordinary citizens about the need to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria globally and was always impressed by the genuine determination of British citizens to work towards ending these three diseases. These commitments of devoting 0.7% of GNI to development generally, and this landmark pledge to the Global Fund by the UK government and this challenge to other global leaders, gives British people the opportunity to be a significant driver in the achievement of truly incredible results. It asserts the UK's extra-ordinary leadership in the fight against the three diseases and as a steadfast supporter and champion of the Global Fund.
I recently helped launch a report, "Cost of Inaction" which adds to recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine and other publications indicating that, with adequate investments, the global community can defeat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It also explains the cost of inaction and the tremendous losses that may be caused if funding for the fight against these three diseases is not secured, including a fully replenished Global Fund.
The British people and their government get it. The Nordic countries got it earlier this month by collectively pledging US $750 million for the Fund, another large increase. Let's hope that other world leaders see the challenge that has been issued to them in this bold and ambitious commitment by the UK government: the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action and we can get these three deadly epidemics under control if we act now and scale-up our collective resources to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. I'm optimistic the world will rise to the challenge.
Lucy Chesire: TB-HIV advocate from Kenya Board Member of the Global Fund Board Communities Delegation.
About the Here I Am campaign:The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, TB and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and the lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world's most deadly diseases. www.hereiamcampaign.org