Media Call with Jeffrey Sachs and Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus
It’s the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria’s 10th Birthday and while there are many successes to celebrate, now is a critical time for the Fund. This week, RESULTS’ Executive Director, Joanne Carter, hosted economist Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health and the former chair of the Global Fund, on a media call to bring attention the funding crisis the Global Fund faces. Joanne opened the call by speaking about the urgent need for the U.S. to lead on this issue. She said:
[Through the Global Fund m]illions of lives have been saved in some 150 countries. But projected funding shortfalls threaten this progress. And last November, the Global Fund Board canceled the next funding round and essentially suspended new grant opportunities until 2014. This is a devastating and unacceptable setback to the fight against these diseases, and donors must mobilize to fill this funding gap.
We’re calling for an emergency donor conference to mobilize the resources needed to reverse the situation and provide for a new funding opportunity in 2012 and 2013. We’re also calling on the United States to convene donors before the International AIDS Conference, which takes place this July in Washington, D.C.
This call to action is so urgent because the Global Fund’s funding shortfall comes at a time when real successes have been made, and slowing down the response to these diseases will cause severe setbacks. Dr. Tedros was able to share the transformation that has happened in Ethiopia since the Global Fund came into the country. He said:
As you know, seven, eight years ago in Ethiopia, when someone was asked to be tested for HIV, they would refuse to be tested, because knowing your status at that time, your status of HIV-AIDS means equivalent to a death sentence. So you can imagine where we started. And very few people actually had access to treatment, and those who can afford it only.
But after the advent of the Global Fund and PEPFAR, now we have more than 70 percent of those living with HIV-AIDS in Ethiopia getting treatment. And every year, close to 10 million people get tested willingly because they know they can get treatment. And as you know, Ethiopia is one of the countries whose incidence of HIV-AIDS declined by more than 25 percent. But not only HIV-AIDS, even malaria declined by more than 50 percent, and also TB prevalence has declined. I think this created hope for many individuals, many families, and the hope of individuals and families means a hope for the nation.
Jeffrey Sachs pointed out that “The Global Fund…is working. It’s a remarkable institution. It has changed the history of poor countries, especially in Africa, but not only in Africa, during the past decade. It has saved many millions of lives. It has protected hundreds of millions of people from disease.”
Sachs reminded people on the call that if funding continues to be delayed, it will be devastating for countries. A report by Doctors Without Borders that came out this earlier this week said that the downturn in donor funding will mean 15,000 AIDS deaths in the Congo as people with HIV will be unable to access live-saving antiretroviral drugs for the next three years. He wants the next round of funding to: