Learning from Africa

The Global Fund and the world have learned a lot from Africa in the last decade. Africans have gained vital epidemiological knowledge on how investment can affect disease patterns. More important, Africa has shown us how we can build partnerships that can help us invest for maximum impact, especially in our fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

In African villages, where many people affected by infectious diseases live, the smallest of treasures and tribulations are shared. People learn to rely on one another for everything. They work together, eat together, and nurse their sick back to health together. When such challenges mount an assault on these villagers, the people rise against them together. They fight back by joining hands to save lives, sometimes against very big odds.

The shared responsibility in African societies where we work with many partners has inspired us in our battles against the three dreadful diseases affecting such a tenacious continent. These lessons are critically important as the world launches onto the last stretch in the fight against these diseases. This spirit of shared responsibility now encompasses many facets of our work: from raising funds for our interventions, to investing in programs that have seen our partners save many lives.

This year, 13 African heads of state serve as champions for efforts to secure resources for the next three years, ahead of a replenishment conference to be hosted by the United States in early December.

Besides supporting the Global Fund's replenishment, African countries have resolved to increase domestic spending on health in line with the Abuja Declaration of 2001, which saw African countries pledge to boost government funding for health to at least 15 percent. The Abuja meeting also urged donor countries to scale up support for health programs.

Just last week, ministers from several countries participating in the Southern African Development Community met in Malawi. When discussing how to finance the fight against infectious diseases, they declared strong support for a more active role in the financing of the Global Fund.

The champions from Africa see increased spending on health from their budgets as an opportunity to enhance country ownership and sustainability in the programs that fight against diseases. In the spirit of shared responsibility, they have resolved to play a robust role in writing the last chapters of the three diseases. They believe that collective efforts from all partners will help us grasp the historical opportunity to defeat the three diseases. This is true shared responsibility, the spirit of Africa.

Leaders have committed to play a part in urging the world to renew its commitment in the fight against these infectious diseases by investing vigorously in the Global Fund. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, one of the 13 champions, will be a co-chair of the Global Fund's Replenishment Conference and his involvement clearly demonstrates the importance of domestic funding. As UNAIDS recently reported, domestic spending on HIV prevention, care and treatment has now become greater, in total, than international support.

As ministers of health and finance, parliamentarians, private sector players, development partners and civil society leaders from many countries in Africa meet with the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the Global Fund in Addis Ababa, we will all press forward with deliberations on increased domestic spending on health in the continent.

By pulling together to deliver on this goal, Africa will bring us ever closer to the transformative moment, when we can proudly declare that we have turned HIV, tuberculosis and malaria into endemics at a low level, rather than pandemics, and no longer big concerns for public health. At the Global Fund, we are tremendously encouraged by this unity. We will continue to learn from these efforts. We will support the initiatives strongly, for we know that at this momentous time in the history of the three diseases, every pound or pula, every dollar or dinar, will play a pivotal role in helping us hit the finish line. Together, we will defeat these diseases.