When I was boy, I dreamed of becoming a doctor. I was born in Indonesia in the early 1950's, a time when most families in my country lacked access to health care. As a result, thousands of children died each year from preventable diseases such as measles, polio and malaria.
But revolutionary breakthroughs in medicine were starting to turn the tide on these killers, and Indonesia's doctors were celebrated as heroes. I wanted to be a hero, too, so I studied hard and enrolled in medical school.
My plans changed, however, when my father got ill. He was a hard-working man who made pedicabs in Surabaya, and I left university when he could no longer manage the family business. Ultimately, I became a successful entrepreneur and established a bank that is now one of Southeast Asia's largest financial institutions.
Looking back, I have no regrets. Indeed, I know that I have been incredibly blessed. Millions of children in developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Western Pacific are forced into extreme poverty when a parent gets sick or dies. And millions more suffer from diseases that prevent them from leading healthy and productive lives.
That is why I have decided to invest $65 million in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. When the Global Fund was created a decade ago, HIV incidence was rising around the world, and the drugs used to treat the virus were still prohibitively expensive. Malaria was killing one million people each year, with mortality concentrated among pregnant women and children under the age of five. More than two million people were dying from tuberculosis because they lacked access to low-cost first-line treatment.
Since then, the Global Fund has played a key role in reversing the course of these epidemics. Worldwide, HIV incidence has fallen by one third, and the cost of HIV drugs has dropped more than 99 percent. The number of African households that sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets has risen from three percent to 53 percent, and malaria deaths have fallen by one third. And TB mortality has dropped more than 40 percent. Altogether, support provided by the Global Fund has saved more than nine million lives -- a remarkable achievement.
But the impact of the Global Fund extends far beyond lives saved. When an HIV-positive mother receives antenatal treatment so that her child can be born HIV-free, we change the future. When a child is spared cerebral malaria and the lifelong mental disabilities that it can cause, new possibilities are created. The world becomes a better place when we commit to giving our children a better start.
The Global Fund also plays a critical role in strengthening health care in developing countries. Its resources have helped to train new generations of doctors, nurses and technicians while dramatically improving the overall quality of maternal and child health. These investments are helping countries take direct ownership of the fight against infectious disease, ultimately reducing their dependence on foreign aid.
For example, support from the Global Fund has helped Indonesia, which has the world's fourth highest TB burden, develop an efficient and effective national TB-control program. As a result, more than one million active cases have been successfully treated, while the incidence of the disease -- which has cost Indonesia's economy millions of dollars in lost productivity -- has been driven down. With technical support like this, Indonesia's government is creating an affordable and sustainable national healthcare system that will be fully financed with domestic resources by 2019.
I believe that the Global Fund is one of the smartest investments that we can make -- as many governments have understood from the outset. The United States has been the Global Fund's largest supporter, but many others have done their part. For example, Australia has provided $410 million to the Global Fund since 2002, an amount that has enabled nearly 200,000 people to receive lifesaving HIV treatment, 80,000 people to receive TB treatment, seven million people to be cured of malaria, and 14 million bed nets to be delivered to families in need.
The Global Fund has brightened the futures of hundreds of thousands of children across Africa and Asia -- a heroic achievement that should make donor countries' citizens proud. I hope that others with the means to support its work will invest so wisely.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, The Global Fund and (RED), in recognition of both World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) and the Global Fund's replenishment launch (taking place in Washington, D.C., December 2-3, where global leaders will determine how much money to allocate to the Global Fund over the next three years). The Global Fund is the Geneva-based financing organization that leads the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. (RED) has to date raised $215 million, with 100 percent of that money going to the Global Fund to fund AIDS programs in Africa. To see all the other posts in this series, visit here. To help fight AIDS, check out the "DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES 2" album here and watch the DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES 2 livestream on World AIDS Day from Australia here on the Huffington Post.