Cash from Global Fund and other sources could create “tipping point” in fighting epidemics, chief says

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2319
  1. Rory Watson
  1. 1Brussels

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is looking to raise $15bn (£9.8bn; € to support the worldwide fight against the diseases from 2014 to 2016. The Geneva based organisation estimates that the contribution, together with funding from other sources, would enable countries to meet almost 90% of the estimated $87bn needed to tackle the diseases worldwide over the period.

Mark Dybul, the fund’s new executive director, presented its overall needs assessment at a two day donors’ conference in Brussels on 9 and 10 April. He emphasised that the international community had to seize the moment to act over the next three years. If it did not, it would fail to deliver on the investments made over the past decade.

“We have a choice,” Dybul said. “We can invest now or pay for ever. Innovations in science and implementation have given us a historic opportunity to completely control these diseases. If we do not, the long term costs will be staggering.”

Speaking to the media before the conference, he said that the sum the fund was seeking ($15bn), coupled with $37bn from within the countries where the fund was active and $24bn from other international sources, would help create a “tipping point.” The $76bn total would turn high transmission epidemics into low level ones, making them manageable health problems instead of global emergencies.

The Global Fund estimated that the total funding would allow 17 million patients with tuberculosis to be treated over the three years, saving some six million lives. Annually, the funds could save a further 200 000 lives by preventing millions of new cases of malaria and over one million new HIV infections.

The Brussels meeting, chaired by the European Commission, which has contributed $1.5bn to the Global Fund since its establishment 12 years ago, was a forerunner to the actual financing pledging conference, which will be held in the autumn.

Chairing the meeting, the European Union’s development commissioner, Andris Pielbags, appealed for more involvement from the private sector, which, with the exception of the Gates Foundation, had not matched its contributions to cheaper drugs and better delivery mechanisms with financial commitments.

He highlighted the scale of the challenges to be tackled: although the number of deaths related to AIDS had fallen from a peak of 2.2 million in the mi-2000s, it was still 1.7 million in 2011. In the same year 1.4 million people died from tuberculosis, while in 2010 there were 106 countries where malaria was still endemic, and some 3.3 billion people worldwide were at risk of contracting the disease.

Pielbags said, “These shocking statistics show in stark terms that we are by no means near the end of our journey. We are all in for the long haul. We will need sustained commitments to the Global Fund.”

Despite the fragile economic climate, Dybul pointed out that many major donors, such as the United States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Netherlands, were increasing their commitments to the Global Fund. He also noted that changes in the way the fund raised and disbursed funds, after earlier criticism, had enabled it invest more strategically and effectively.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2319