A groundbreaking innovation, the Global Fund was conceived a decade ago at the World Economic Forum as a way to respond to the growing threat of the three killer diseases. In partnership with other programs, the Fund has provided treatment to 3.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS and enabled over 1 million HIV-positive women to protect their babies from transmission of the disease. The Fund has also financed the detection and treatment of 8.6 million cases of tuberculosis and distributed 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.
With support for HIV/AIDS sufferers and services providing antiretroviral therapy, AIDS-related deaths have declined significantly in recent years. According to the latest UNAIDS report, the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes fell to 1.8 million in 2010, down from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s. And Incidence rates of HIV have also fallen in 33 countries, 22 of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the epidemic.
With tough economic times, health workers in many sub-Saharan countries have been concerned about dwindling finances to treat HIV/AIDS patients, when anti-retroviral treatments are transforming the lives of millions. In Tanzania, the communications manager at the ‘Friends of the Global Fight Against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria’ has written movingly about the time when she first arrived as a doctor in the country, in 1988. Anne Marson carried out anonymous tests among her patients after she arrived. These revealed that one in ten Tanzanians were already infected with HIV/AIDS. Over the next four years, the incidence rose to 3 in every ten patients. In one village alone, deaths from AIDS left 70 children as orphans. Now she describes how treatment centres supported by the Global Fund and other organizations, supply local people who test positive with the drugs they need. Without falling sick, adults are again able to care for their families. Anne Marson says she wants to highlight the “extraordinary results” and “real-life stories” of Tanzanians to convince the world that the care of people with HIV/AIDS is still a cause worth investing in.
Bill Gates is one person who doesn’t need convincing. The Microsoft founder and philanthropist this week pledged a further 750 million dollars to prop up the finances of the Global Fund. Mr Gates said that despite the tough economic climate, “there is no excuse for cutting aid to the world’s poorest”. Many governments and health bodies have welcomed his injection of funds, especially when evidence is growing that the widespread availability of HIV treatment is finally turning the epidemic around in many developing countries such as Tanzania.