Global Fund Still Short of $18 Billion Target for Fighting HIV, TB and Malaria – But UK and Italy Have Yet to Announce Pledges
Leaders at the Global Fund’s seventh replenishment conference in New York.

The Global Fund raised $14.25 billion at its seventh replenishment conference in New York on Wednesday – still some way short of its $18 billion target for the next three years, although the United Kingdom and Italy had yet to make their commitments at the end of a day of public pledges.

US President Joe Biden, who hosted the conference, said that the Global Fund offered a 31-fold return on investment in terms of health and economic gains in its fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

“Through our work together, it’s estimated the Global Fund has saved 50 million lives and dramatically, dramatically reduced the death rate of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the countries where it’s working,” said Biden, describing the replenishment drive as “one of the largest global health fundraisers in history”. 

“We’re putting equity at the core of our efforts,” added Biden. “We have to ensure that everyone – no matter who they are, who they love, where they come from – can access the care and treatment they need, are treated with dignity and are able to lead a healthy, productive, fulfilling life.”

US President Joe Biden

The US has pledged to cover one-third of the Global Fund’s budget target– $6 billion – on condition that every $1 billion it contributes is met by $2 billion from other countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron drew applause when he announced his country pledged $1.6 billion – an increase of 300 million Euros over its previous contribution.

“First and foremost, we should insist on the robustness of our health systems everywhere in the world,” said Macron, supporting the Global Fund’s proposal to invest $6 billion in health systems during the next three-year phase.

Some 20% of France’s contribution will be dedicated to young women and gender equality said Macron, who also stressed the importance of investing in the local production of medicines, particularly in Africa.

Germany’s Olaf Scholz pledged $1.3 billion, also stressing the importance of investing in health systems to safeguard against future pandemics. Canada’s Justin Trudeau pledged $1.21 billion.

A range of wealthier countries – including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain – increased their contributions by 30%.

The European Union also upped its contribution by 30%, pledging 750 million Euros, and declaring support for stronger health systems.

Notably, Africa’s Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda – all of which have been hit hard economically by COVID-19 – also increased their contributions by 30%.

However, the UK and Italy – while pledging support – did not specify how much they could offer. Traditionally, the UK has been one of the biggest funders of the Global Fund.  But new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss only took office on 6 September, followed by Queen Elizabeth II’s death and funeral.  And so her new government is yet to present a budget to Parliament. Meanwhile, Italy is holding national elections on Saturday, September 25.

COVID setbacks

USAID administrator Samantha Power

This year’s pledging drive was framed as a moment in which countries could band together to resume the drive to reduce death rates from the world’s three most deadly infectious diseases following the setbacks that the COVID pandemic triggered.

“Setbacks are not destiny,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power as she opened the conference by enumerating the ways in which COVID-19 had rolled back years of gains in the fight against tuberculosis and malaria in particular.  TB and malaria diagnosis and treatment rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels in 2021 a recent Global Fund report shows.  But the world remains far off course in terms of meeting the ambitious targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to end all three epidemics.  

“The latest data from UNAIDS shows that HIV infections actually rose last year by 1.5 million just when we need to see rapid declines to reach our shared goal of ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by the end of this decade,” said Power.

“Last year, an estimated 800,000 children living with HIV were still not receiving life-saving treatment,” she added. 

“TB deaths rose in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade, with 1.5 million deaths in 2020 alone, and with global malaria, where we saw remarkable progress as death rates dropped by 47% between 2002 and 2020, cases and deaths are both tragically on the rise.”

Global Fund executive director Peter Sands concluded the conference by thanking the contributing countries.

“We know these are challenging times with competing demands and fiscal pressures,” said Sands. “We know you have gone the extra mile. Thank you to all of you from civil society and communities. Your passion, and your determination is an inspiration to us all.

“Together, we can end AIDS, TB and malaria and make a better world free of the fear and pain of infectious diseases, a world where no one is left behind. And today, with your help, we have taken a giant step towards making this happen.”

Image Credits: Global Fund.

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