News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

EU commits $1bn to global fund

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 24 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:182
  1. Alexander Dorozynski
  1. Paris

    The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, guaranteed a European contribution of $1bn (£630m; €890m) for 2004 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

    But he warned that the European Union, with its 15 sovereign states, sometimes worked slowly. President Prodi was speaking last week at the closing of an international conference in Paris of representatives of the fund, which was created in June 2002.

    The global fund supports country based interventions against disease. Since its creation it has received about $4.6bn in pledges and $1.4bn in actual donations to finance more than 150 programmes in 92 countries. Of this amount 60% has been allocated to Africa and 65% has been devoted to HIV/AIDS.

    The programmes will provide antiretroviral treatment to more than half a million people infected with HIV and will support as many children orphaned by AIDS. It will also cover the detection and treatment of two million cases of tuberculosis and deliver 20 million combination treatments for drug resistant malaria.

    Although representatives of non-governmental organisations complained that some countries have not carried out their pledges to the fund, Peter Piot, director of the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, said the results were nevertheless encouraging.

    “For the first time in the short history of the AIDS epidemic we have a chance to reverse the tendency. It is irresponsible to underestimate the challenges. But I think they are not insurmountable,” he said.

    But the fund can't live by pledges alone. It needs cash, said Dr Richard Feachem, the fund's executive director. He explained that the fund was short by about $2bn this year and will need $3bn by the end of 2004. He estimated that it would need $7bn a year from 2007 to carry out its programme properly.

    Tommy Thompson, US secretary of health and human services, who is also chairman of the Geneva based fund's board, said that applications for projects costing $1.6bn are pending.

    In his closing speech French president Jacques Chirac reaffirmed his call for Europe to contribute $1bn a year and called for the United States to allocate the same amount each year. Earlier this year President Bush asked Congress to allocate $1bn a year for five years, provided that the amount does not exceed one third of the total contributions from the European Union and the G8 nations.

    During a press conference last week Tommy Thompson and Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated that from now on the United States agreed to the fund's criterion regarding drugs, “The medicine of the best quality at the lowest price. This does not exclude generics.”

    Dr Fauci, a well known HIV specialist, reminded journalists that his country had agreed not to prosecute any country before the World Trade Organization for the use of generic drugs in case of a health emergency.

    Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, also addressed the meeting. He said, “Turning the tide of AIDS, TB, and malaria is a priority second to none.”

    Abbas Gullet, director of disaster management at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, wrote in the International Herald Tribune (July 17, “Last year alone, an estimated 2.4 million Africans—most of them in the prime of their lives—died from HIV/AIDS. This toll is equivalent to more than 15 fully loaded passenger jets crashing every day of the year.”

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