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Global Fund asks for £13bn for Aids, Malaria and TB

A global group funding the battle against Aids, malaria and tuberculosis in the world’s poorest countries has urged richer nations to keep paying for the fight even as the economic crisis slashes budgets. The Geneva-based Global Fund, aims to win pledges of up to $20 billion (about £13bn) over the next three years from national governments. But it fears the global economic meltdown could make rich countries scale back their donations.

More than 95 per cent of the fund's money comes from countries' foreign aid budgets. Countries are expected to make their cash pledges for the next three years at a conference at the United Nations headquarters in October. "The preliminary contacts we have been having with capitals particularly in Europe are that budgets will be tight, and when budgets are tight (aid) is often paying the price," said Global Fund  executive director Michel Kazatchkine. He highlighted how the fund's success against the killer diseases since its launch eight years ago has shown it is saving millions of lives. "I feel the results we are presenting are just incredible," he told The Associated Press news service.

At the moment the fund helps pay for Aids treatment for 2.5 million people. The $20bn the fund is asking for would lift that figure to 7.5 million, he said. In 2007, the fund handed out 18 million anti-malaria mosquito nets. That number has risen to 105 million and the fund now aims to get out 250 million nets. Lowering the rate of tuberculosis to 124 out of every 100,000 people in 2015, from 164 is another of its key goals. There are nearly 9 million new cases of TB worldwide and the disease kills more than 1.5 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. TB can be cured with a six-month course of antibiotics that costs only $20, but WHO said about 4 percent of all TB cases worldwide are thought to be non-responsive to the usual drugs. Double infections of HIV and TB could become the next new health challenge warned Michel Sidibe, head of the United Nations Aids program. Someone whose immune system is already damaged by HIV is even more at risk of tuberculosis, which is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs. The disease is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children