The Next Phase of an American Legacy: John Kerry, Global Health and Financing for Development

This week's Financing for Development (FfD) Conference - a major gathering to advance the post-2015 development agenda - will be critical in deciding how the world's governments and private sector and civil society partners will contribute to international development in the future.
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This week's Financing for Development (FfD) Conference - a major gathering to advance the post-2015 development agenda - will be critical in deciding how the world's governments and private sector and civil society partners will contribute to international development in the future. This will include serious discussion of an area in which the United States has led investments and seen incredible successes: global health, and particularly the fights against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The story of U.S. leadership in the fight against these diseases is one of immense success and progress - we in the Washington global health community share stories of these successes every day in assessing how far we've come and how to maximize impact moving forward. In highlighting U.S. impact, a common, rarely explored thread emerges: how John Kerry's steadfast leadership and commitment to global health has significantly contributed to making this progress possible.

Secretary Kerry's legacy in health is remarkable. Throughout his 28-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, he served on the Committee on Foreign Relations and sponsored or co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation that have greatly influenced American global health efforts. His leadership was instrumental in the United States Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Act of 2003, which created PEPFAR and authorized the United States to participate in the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This bill represented the best of America's humanitarian efforts, and Kerry's leadership helped to bring bipartisan support to the table.

In 2008, Kerry's leadership again was vital in maintaining bipartisan support to pass the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008. Then-Senator Kerry became Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in 2009, and continued to provide leadership for America's response to global health epidemics, including speaking at the Partnership Symposium of the Global Fund's Fourth Replenishment Conference, where he called for more partners to join in supporting the Global Fund.

As Secretary of State, Kerry continues to stress the importance of global health efforts in American foreign policy. At President Obama's 2013 World AIDS Day event, he described the possibility of defeating HIV/AIDS an opportunity to "build on a great American legacy" and provide "a new definition of the character of our nation."

Most importantly, Secretary Kerry and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Deborah Birx, have encouraged work to make America's global health efforts more evidence-based, impactful and sustainable for future generations. They have developed a new engagement model that emphasizes partnerships to share responsibility and accountability, increased transparency and the use of data to invest strategically. Under their leadership, PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are partnering to create local data hubs that will ensure greater access to data on the relationship between HIV/AIDS and economic development. Furthermore, Secretary Kerry's global health efforts incorporate a focus on women and children to ensure that vulnerable populations are not left out of progress. This includes PEPFAR's 2014 partnership with the Children's Investment Fund Foundation to launch Accelerating Children's HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT), with the goal of doubling the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy in 10 priority countries.

Thanks to then-Senator Kerry's collaboration in the creation of PEPFAR, the program is now supporting antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million men, women and children across the world. Similarly, he helped to promote bipartisan support in Congress for the Global Fund, which has distributed more than 450 million insecticide-treated nets to protect families against malaria. Finally, under Secretary Kerry's unrelenting efforts to prioritize global health as both a humanitarian and national security mission, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control began collaborations this spring with the African Union to develop an African Center for Disease Control that will help share information more effectively and build the capacity to prevent, detect and treat new disease epidemics before they spread to international borders - an effort that is especially pertinent to this week's conference.

We find ourselves at a crucial moment for global health as world leaders gather this week for FfD. We and our partners around the world must keep in mind Secretary Kerry's 2014 call to action at the United Nations: our "commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS is undiminished, just as our work is unfinished. And our commitment has only been strengthened by the progress that we've made, the lives we've saved, and the fact that we've learned we know what to do - we just have to do it. That's a story worth telling and it's a story that compels all of us to continue."

Sustained, robust funding for global health from all countries will be essential to building on the momentum of past successes and defeating these global epidemics once and for all. Secretary Kerry's efforts have helped define America as a global health leader. As we move forward at this critical moment in history, we look forward to joint efforts to ensure that these investments become an even broader and more compelling story to tell.

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