THE BLOG
11/22/2013 08:53 am ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014

Giving Thanks for the Chance to Save Millions of Lives

There has been a lot to give thanks for recently in the realm of global health: successful malaria vaccine trials are giving us new cause for hope; the World Health Organization announced the largest-ever rollout of GenXpert rapid tuberculosis testing machines in 21 countries; and we have now reached the point where we can conceive of an AIDS-free generation.

While it's important to feel gratitude for what we've accomplished, it's precisely because of these advancements that we can't put current efforts on cruise control. We've put ourselves on a course where we can save millions of lives every year through targeted global health investments. Now is the time to come together as a global community to rev up support and ensure long-term, sustainable solutions in the fight against these deadly, yet treatable, diseases.

Donors from all over the world will have a chance to do just that in the days after Thanksgiving. On Dec. 3, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will hold its Fourth Voluntary Replenishment meeting in Washington, D.C. The Global Fund is the world's largest public health financier -- providing more than $3 billion each year for critical, lifesaving programs in more than 140 countries. At its December conference, donors will announce their commitments to the organization and its partners through 2016.

The outlook is good, with commitments poised to greatly exceed the $9.2 billion in hard pledges announced at the time of the Global Fund's last replenishment conference. The United Kingdom and several Nordic countries have already made pledges for significantly increased funding -- committing approximately US$1.6 billion and US$750 million, respectively. Italy is poised to rejoin the ranks of Global Fund backers. And the momentum continued as, just this week, the Republic of Korea announced that it will double its commitment to the Global Fund.

Further, in recognition that existing donor governments cannot fund this battle alone, Indonesia's Tahir Foundation recently committed $65 million, over five years -- and that amount was matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Though Indonesia still receives Global Fund financing, this contribution serves as a great example of both private sector partnership and the increasing involvement of emerging economies in global efforts to save lives and increase productivity.

This strengthened confidence in the Global Fund's work is hard-won -- and well-deserved. The Fund has undertaken a raft of rapid improvements in the last two years. These include better fiduciary controls, increased focus on grant management, and the creation of a new funding model that will accelerate disbursement time and target areas with the highest disease burden. This confidence helped increase donor buy-in to the Global Fund, allowing for disbursements to increase from $3 billion in 2011 to $3.3 billion in 2012, with an even steeper grant-making trajectory on the horizon for 2013. In sum, more money is getting to the people who need it most -- and it's getting there faster.

Perhaps the greatest vote of confidence has been the Obama Administration's announcement that this year's replenishment conference will be hosted in our nation's capital. It's a characteristic show of U.S. leadership. The U.S. government has been the largest contributor to the Global Fund since it was established in 2002, lending its bipartisan support and setting the tone for other donors worldwide.

The United States' and others' investments in the Global Fund and bilateral programs have led the way to stunning results in the past decade: HIV incidence has been reduced by more than 20 percent. Cases of malaria are down by 26 percent. And in the past two decades, tuberculosis deaths have decreased by more than 40 percent. This all translates into millions of lives saved, returned to vigor and productivity, and given the chance to forge a path to prosperity.

There is some distance to cover before we can eliminate these diseases as public health threats. But let me assure you -- it absolutely can be done. We are at a unique moment in history when scientific advances, greater knowledge of how to target the diseases, and better implementation strategies mean that controlling HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is within our reach.

If governments, the private sector and civil society work together, we can be the generation that helps turn the tide on these three terrible diseases. And that's something we could all be thankful for.

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