After 10 years of rapid progress in the fight against the AIDS pandemic, we are fast approaching a fork in the road. In the course of the next fortnight we are going to find out if the world is ready to follow through on a promise to turn the tide against this devastating disease or whether it will stumble.
The choice now facing political leaders is either making sure that funds are secured to put everyone who needs it on treatment -- a key objective if HIV/AIDS is to be vanquished-- or, instead, walking away and missing what may be a now-or-never opportunity. I am proud to say that France will not. Yesterday, my husband President Nicolas Sarkozy committed €1.08 billion (US$1.4 billion) to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, making France the first country to pledge funding to The Global Fund for the coming three-year period. Despite the challenging global economic environment, the contribution is the largest-ever financial pledge from France to the fight against the three pandemics.
This week, the United Nations is holding a summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is an eight-point plan to attack the root causes of poverty and backwardness in the world. Three of the MDGs relate specifically to health and they call for reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, reversing the incidence of malaria and the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Meeting these objectives could improve and save countless lives.
The MDG summit is an opportunity to measure the progress that has been made since these ambitious goals were adopted 10 years ago. We have come a long way in a short time. Well over 5 million people in developing countries living with HIV/AIDS have been put on life- saving anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and nearly half of women living with HIV/AIDS can now receive care and treatment to prevent the virus being transmitted to their babies.
I have seen some of these women with my own eyes on visits to Benin and Burkina Faso. I wish that others could also have a chance to see their faces light up with hope in the knowledge that they can give birth to children who will be free of HIV.
Thanks to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, nearly one million women have been given this opportunity in the last few years.
The Global Fund, created in 2002 two years after the Millennium Development Goals were adopted by 189 United Nations countries, is making a big difference in the world. Already, it is estimated that Global Fund-supported programs have saved nearly 6 million lives. This organization channels more than half of global funding for programs to help prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to children, supports a similar proportion of the 5 million people receiving life-saving treatment for AIDS, and provides two-thirds of the global funding to tackle malaria and tuberculosis.
Shortly after the UN MDG summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will host a special "Replenishment" meeting on October 5 of donor countries to make financial pledges to the Global Fund for the next three years. Without a successful Global Fund Replenishment, the world will fall short of meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals, and some of the progress made in the past 10 years may well go to waste.
This day will also highlight the call to action I voiced on behalf of the Global Fund and all its partners at the 2009 UN General Assembly, to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children by 2015. This is not an unattainable dream. This is a realistic target.
In the coming weeks, much is at stake, but if we join forces to secure the support we need to seize this historic opportunity, we can achieve great things.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the Global Fund's Ambassador for the Protection of Mothers and Children Against AIDS. To sign up to the Born HIV Free campaign, go to www.bornhivfree.org, and for more about the Global Fund, go to www.theglobalfund.org.