Global Fund Blitz Aims to Offset Shortfall
Global Fund
The Global Fund has electronic displays in Times Square in New York City this week.

The Global Fund goes into its pledging conference on Wednesday substantially short of its $18 billion minimum target to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria over the next five years.

Hosted by US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the seventh replenishment conference is the culmination of a months-long fundraising campaign that has galvanised thousands across the world.

“We have an unprecedented number of heads of state turning up and actually we’re really excited about the momentum as we go into these closing few hours,” Global Fund executive director Peter Sands told a private sector conference on Monday.

The Global Fund has already saved 50 million lives since it was launched in 2002, according to its recent Results Report – primarily by enabling people living with HIV to get antiretroviral medicine. It says it can save a further 20 million lives between 2023 and 2028 if it raises its target budget.

“In 2000, life expectancy in Malawi was 46,” said Sands. “In 2019, 19 years later, life expectancy in Malawi was 65. So in 19 years, 19 years of life expectancy were added. Two-thirds of that difference was due to the reduction in mortality from HIV, TB and malaria.”

Sands said this has had a “transformative impact” on Malawi and other countries.

“We are hoping to save 20 million lives and reduce the mortality rate across the three diseases by almost two thirds by 2026, which is not very far away. That will have a similarly transformational impact,” added Sands.

US pledges one-third of budget

At last count, only four countries had made their pledges known and their combined commitments reached US$8.66 billion. The lion’s share comes from the US, which has pledged $6 billion – one-third of the budget ask.

Germany has pledged US$1.3 billion and Japan $1.08 billion – both 30% increases on previous years. Sweden is pledging $280 million, a cut of $10 million as the war in Ukraine eats into its resources.

However, the UK, France, Canada and the European Commission – the other major supporters of the Global Fund – have yet to declare their pledges. The Global Fund is seeking a $4 billion increase its previous three-year funding cycle in part to offset the impact of COVID-19.

Over the past few days, there has been a frenzy of activity in New York in support of the replenishment including electronic billboards in Times Square, an opening reception and a private sector conference.

Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), told the private sector conference that the Global Fund was “quite literally one of the very best investments that the Gates Foundation has ever made in anything and especially in global health”. 

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

‘Kindest thing’

“My boss, Bill Gates, has called it one of the best and kindest things people have ever done for one another,” said Suzman on Monday.

The BMGF is the Global Fund’s biggest private sector donor, and Suzman announced that US$100 million of the money it intends to pledge has been allocated to unlocking matching funds from the private sector.

“Fifty million lives saved over the last two decades is an amazing tribute to the collaboration and the partnership and the commitment and dedication of so many people around the world, and the private sector has been fundamentally essential to that success,” he said. 

“Less well known is how the Global Fund, driven by private sector initiatives, quickly mobilised during COVID-19 to help maintain essential HIV, TB and malaria services, while also combating the pandemic using the expertise it has in procurement and distribution in critical areas like oxygen, saving many many more lives.”

Global Fund executive director Peter Sands addressing the private sector conference on Monday.

Sands told the private sector conference that his organisation had launched the investment case for the seventh replenishment on the day that Russia invaded Ukraine, and knew it was a tough ask in the current climate.

“But we need to succeed because we have been knocked backwards by COVID-19. And we’re in a world where conflict, food and hunger crisis, climate change-related events are just making everything harder, and particularly for the poorest and most marginalised in the world,” Sands said.

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