WASHINGTON - August 9 - Public health advocates today praised a new $500 million pledge by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. They also warned that without major funding increases from donor governments, this major stamp of approval would not be enough to ensure that the Global Fund has the funding needed to dramatically scale up AIDS, TB and malaria programs. The advocates include Global AIDS Alliance, RESULTS, Health GAP, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Advocates for Youth, Project-RING of the Japan AIDS and Society Association, ActionAid, Action Against AIDS Germany, and AIDES.
"When the richest man on earth provides such generous support for the Global Fund the risk is that some donor governments may mistakenly think they are now off the hook," warned Joanne Carter, legislative director of RESULTS. "But the Gates¹ pledge must be seen as an endorsement and a challenge to wealthy countries because in reality, we will never break the back of AIDS, TB and malaria without robust increases in donor government support for the Global Fund."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced that they would contribute $500 million to the Global Fund over the next five years, and would make $200 million of this available for the upcoming sixth funding round for which countries are currently applying. While this contribution is a welcome addition to the Global Fund¹s capacity to fight the biggest infectious killers of our time, it is only a small portion of the total global need $31.2 billion annually by 2010 for AIDS, TB and malaria.
Even after the new Gates Foundation pledge is factored in, the Global Fund has a funding gap of $1.8 billion just for 2006 and 2007 expenditures. Furthermore, to meet the Millennium Development Goal for AIDS, TB and malaria, the Global Fund estimates that it will need annual contributions of approximately $11 billion by 2010. If these resource gaps are not filled, the human cost will be immeasurable. New expansion would be undermined and people already being treated with Global Fund resources could be forced out of treatment, increasing drug-resistant strains and leading to an untold loss of life.
At the recent G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, the G8 reaffirmed their support for the Global Fund, which was created at the 2000 G8 Summit in Okinawa, Japan. The G8 leaders pledged to fulfill their "prior G8 commitments" on infectious disease by "mobilizing support for the Global Fund." In addition, the G8 called on all concerned to develop a "four-year strategy, aimed at building a solid foundation for the activities of the Fund in the years ahead."
However, advocates have criticized the G8 for not yet stating how its own commitments will be fulfilled. In a letter to G8 leaders prior to the St. Petersburg Summit, religious leaders including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and Bishop Mark Hanson, President of the Lutheran World Federation and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, wrote, "The G8 countries need to demonstrate their collective effort to adequately respond to the crisis and show their commitment through concrete pledges for Round 6 of the Global Fund. For the longer term, the establishment of timetables is crucial to achieve the targets of 0.7 per cent of gross national products for official development assistance by 2015."
"The Gates Foundation has stepped forward‹but G8 donor governments appear to be stepping back," said Asia Russell, the alternate Global Fund Board member for developed country NGOs. "The wealthiest countries in the world have committed to attaining universal access to HIV treatment, prevention and care by 2010. Will they put their money where their mouths are?"
Donor governments will need to follow the lead of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and dramatically increase their level of support for the Global Fund if the international community¹s pledge to work towards universal access for people living with HIV and AIDS is to be fulfilled. The Global Fund is also critically important in achieving the targets of the bold new Global Plan to Stop TB‹cutting TB deaths in half and saving 14 million lives in the next decade, as well as the fight against malaria. The Fund provides a full two-thirds of all external funding for these two diseases.