Natasha F. Bilimoria is president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The opinions expressed are her own.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — the world’s most powerful tool for improving health — at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
As I participate in the global health events at this year’s forum in Davos, I can’t help but think of a different scene playing out almost 3,000 miles away in Accra, Ghana, where women with HIV are keeping appointments at Global Fund-supported clinics, talking to health care providers, and getting the treatment they need to protect their newborn babies, care for their families and lead healthy, productive lives.
During a recent visit to the TEMA and Korel Bu Teaching Hospitals in Accra, I had the honor of meeting some of these women living with HIV, who spoke with pride about their ability to work to support their families and be a part of their communities — and the joy of being alive to watch their children grown and learn.
Run by dedicated professionals and filled with healthy, active women and children, the hospitals are financed in a partnership of the Global Fund, (PRODUCT) RED and the Ghanaian Ministry of Health. They boast a 100 percent success rate in preventing the transmission of HIV to newborn babies.
At Davos this morning, Bill Gates announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing an additional $750 million in the Global Fund. At the announcement, Gates said, “By supporting the Global Fund, we can help to change the fortunes of the poorest countries in the world.”
He’s right. We’ve seen those fortunes change in the past 10 years, as successes such as those in Accra have unfolded in communities across the globe.
The TEMA and Korel Bu Teaching Hospitals are just one of the 1,000 programs the Global Fund finances in 150 countries. In total, the Global Fund is responsible for saving the lives of roughly 4,400 people every day.
Those of us who have been lucky enough to visit a site and meet the women, men and children receiving care have seen the progress with our own eyes, but we all can feel the reverberations — even from thousands of miles away.
In addition to promoting stronger, healthier communities, the programs the Global Fund supports build a safer, more stable world for all of us by shoring up infrastructures in fragile countries, enabling countries to have ownership of their public health improvements and allowing people the chance to be productive.
It is stunning to think that all of this has been achieved in just 10 short years. A groundbreaking innovation, the Global Fund was conceived a decade ago at the World Economic Forum as an emergency response to the three diseases.
Through the Global Fund, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other programs, the world rallied around this cause in a broad coalition never before been seen. Republicans, Democrats, celebrities, the private sector, faith communities — these unlikely partnerships drove a decade of tremendous results.
For its part, to date, Global Fund-supported programs:
- provide AIDS treatment to 3.3 million people;
- have enabled more than 1 million HIV-positive pregnant women to protect their babies from transmission;
- has detected and treated 8.6 million cases of tuberculosis; and
- have distributed 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.
This milestone anniversary is an opportunity to look back at this unprecedented movement and what was accomplished in the past decade.
But more important, it’s a chance to look forward to a new chapter in the Global Fund’s work. So much has been done, but there is so much more to do.
We’re in a tough global economy, to be sure, but we’re also primed to beat back AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
The medical advances are there, and political will is once again gaining speed, as we heard in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s powerful speech in November.
Just a few weeks later, President Barack Obama amplified the Administration’s plea for invigorated attention on AIDS treatment and prevention measures when he spoke on World AIDS Day, alongside former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and recommitted to the U.S.’s multiyear pledge to the Global Fund.
It was a show of bipartisanship that recalled that moment a decade ago when people of all stripes came together to respond to a world in crisis, to help people they had never met and would never meet.
That call to immediate action has grown into something so much larger — because of the lives saved, yes, but also because of the partnerships built. We are now on the cusp of ensuring an entire generation can live an entire lifetime free from AIDS.
We can envision the day when malaria is eliminated in most of the countries where it is prevalent. People need no longer die simply because of where they were born. With continued strong support, wealthy and poor nations pulling together, we can make this happen.
No one believes this more strongly than the dedicated men and women who work at the Global Fund.
They are looking ahead to a bright future, continuing to streamline the Global Fund’s operations and make improvements on its innovative model so it is prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead — and produce the sustained results necessary to ultimately wipe out these diseases for good.
These goals may seem out of reach, but just look at the miles we’ve traveled in 10 years. We should not be overwhelmed but, rather, inspired, as we look back at the road stretching from Davos to Accra and beyond.