|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
The Millennium Development Goals on health would be reached by 2015 if the international community sustained and expanded its level of dedicated resources and effort, said the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at a Headquarters press conference today.
“Everyone understands that health is key to development, and everyone — what I would call the global public opinion — realizes that inequities in access to health between the global North and the global South are some of the most unacceptable inequities,” said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund, which he called the primary multilateral funder of global health.
He urged individual countries to strive towards committing 15 per cent of their national budgets to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, as set out by the Abuja Declaration. Commitments made recently included: $1.4 billion by France; $540 million by Canada; and $800 million by Japan.
He also pointed out that international and multilateral donors would pledge funding for three years at the Global Fund Replenishment Conference, which would take place on 4-5 October. When asked about the $1 million gift from Access Bank in Nigeria to the Global Fund's “Gift from Africa Project”, he confirmed that the formal announcement would be made at the Replenishment Conference, but that that was the first time the private sector in Africa had contributed to the Fund.
“I think it has huge political significance. It means that everyone is joining in, in this effort — the North and the South, the public and the private sector,” he added of the gift.
Calling malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis “the three killer diseases of the developing world”, he outlined progress in the Global Fund’s effort to defeat them, stating that health was the area of development where the most progress in the past 10 years.
He said that while malaria was a neglected disease in 2000, the Millennium Development-related target for malaria was close to being reached and universal coverage of the most at-risk populations in Africa and Southeast Asia would be achieved by no later than 2011 by means of insecticide-treated bed nets. That would require 350 million bed nets, the funding for which had already been committed for 325 million of them; the Global Fund was covering 250 million. The most appropriate second-generation drugs for fighting malaria, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), were now coming to countries either free of charge or highly subsidized.
He reported that while only a few hundred thousand people were accessing drug treatment for AIDS at the time when the Goals were established, 5.2 million people, representing approximately 45 per cent coverage of the most urgent needs, were now being helped, with 2.8 million people receiving direct support from the Global Fund. He noted that the overall curve of the AIDS epidemic was also reaching a plateau, with the number of new infections decreasing, particularly in young people.
Regarding tuberculosis, mortality had decreased by 30 per cent in the last 10-15 years, and the cure rate — the number of people effectively cured after treatment — had reached more than 85 per cent of the international target, he said.
The one area where the Global Fund was not on track to achieve the Goals concerned multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, for which the Fund was the only financial backer of treatment in the developing world, he stated. Although the Fund was supporting 70,000 patients, 500,000 individuals required treatment.
Asked how the Global Fund ensured that funding and assistance regarding malaria was being used in the best way, he answered that the Fund’s philosophy was to respond financially to requests from countries, which determined their own anti-malarial strategies involving the three interventions of bed nets, drugs, and indoor spraying. He added that 40 per cent of all funding from the Global Fund went to communities and civil society on the ground, because that was the best way to ensure appropriate distribution and use.
As to what mechanisms were in place to ensure that funds went directly to necessary programmes in countries such as Zambia, he said that, unfortunately, the Global Fund’s financing had been misused by one of its principal recipients in Zambia, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would manage funds for a short period of time until trust in the country’s Ministry of Health and Finance was re-established.
He explained further that the Global Fund’s approach, which aimed to prevent misuse of large sums of money, entailed providing the first tranche of a grant for specific objectives and only releasing the next tranche when reports from both recipients and independent auditors confirmed programmatic achievements.
As for the Fund’s biggest challenges, he said more drugs were needed, noting that it was most frustrating not to be able to treat the most drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, which cost $7,000 to $12,000 to cure, compared to $17 to treat other forms of the disease. Another challenge was diagnosis, as most countries were not equipped with the laboratory structures necessary to identify different strains.
Regarding whether the Global Fund had any plans to increase funding for Myanmar, he explained that, although financing had been discontinued in 2005 because of inadequate access to monitor progress on the ground, efforts were under way to find the right conditions to restore the Fund. He added that he had had a few meetings with the country’s Health Minister for that purpose.
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