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By Prof. C.O. Onyebuchi Chukwu - Minister of Health in Nigeria
The news of a remarkable commitment of £1 Billion (US$1.6 billion) by the U.K. to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced in New York on Monday is as welcome as it is timely. Laudably, this pledge means that the U.K. has more than doubled the size of its already substantial support to the Global Fund for the next three years.
Years ago while working as a doctor in different hospitals in Nigeria, I learnt first-hand the significance of having adequate resources to prevent and treat infectious diseases. Often, the remarkable commitment of health officials would fall short whenever there were not sufficient tools to help them fight disease. Infectious diseases, by their very nature, require a certain combination of conditions to thrive. One of those is failure of precise and timely intervention when the diseases show signs of retreating.
Today as health minister, I realize that we have made significant strides since the days when HIV and AIDS was killing people in droves in my country, and indeed in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Through robust investments, scientific advances and better implementation, HIV prevalence and new infections in many countries across the continent are now reducing. The same success has been registered in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, the other two of the biggest infectious diseases of our time. The three diseases are now in retreat.
All epidemiological indicators point to the fact that we are at a momentous time in history. A transformative effect can be achieved now while infection rates are in decline. This opportunity will be lost if the world lets infection rates climb again. That diseases can have a rebound is a lesson from history.
The Global Fund is seeking US$15 billion for the 2014-16 period to catalyze the gains made against the three diseases in the last decade and to completely control these maladies, relegating them to a low-level epidemic status.
The Fund has conducted a needs assessment, which concludes that $US 15 billion can make a transformative difference in the fight against these diseases. By working together with other agencies and governments, this investment can cover 85 percent of the people in need of access to key interventions for HIV, TB and malaria. Such wide coverage in prevention and treatment services would defeat the diseases and remove them as threats to public health.
Once again, the U.K. has demonstrated its able leadership in bettering the well-being of the most- at- need of the world. The generous investment in the Global Fund this week brings the world closer to the $US 15 billion mark; it allows us to get ever closer to defeating these maladies. With its robust investment, the U.K. has joined other investors in the frontlines of the fight against disease, playing a big part in making it possible for us to be the generation that will defeat these diseases.
On behalf of the West and Central Africa implementing constituency and on behalf of the Conference of African Union Health Ministers, I thank the UK government and people most sincerely. The significance of what UK has done is not lost on me as Africa has a disproportionate burden of these diseases and stands to benefit most on this friendly gesture. I wish to assure the government and people of UK that their action is beyond a friendly gesture but indeed an investment in the wellbeing of people.