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Dr. Paul Zeitz

Dr. Paul Zeitz

Posted: September 21, 2010 09:44 AM

I was near Wall Street yesterday. The money that continues to pour into the investment banks, hedge funds and money center banks is staggering. But the Return on Investment (ROI) has been less than inspiring, lately. The big banks do keep their marble floors polished, however.

There is another investment option, one that saves millions of lives every year. And its fate hangs in the balance this week.

That is why I'm in New York. The United Nations is hosting its Millennium Development Goals Summit, and I am representing the Global AIDS Alliance at various related events. It has been 10 years since the U.N. pledged eight, specific and targeted goals to end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015. The sixth goal (MDG #6) addresses the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and this Summit is a way of taking stock on the world's progress.

The MDG Summit also is where many nations, including the U.S., are expected to make their financial pledge to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund is doing remarkable, even amazing things to help achieve the MDGs, including saving nearly 6 million lives since 2002.

6 million lives.

How? The Global Fund has provided 2.8 million people with life saving anti-retroviral (ARV) medication to fight HIV/AIDS, including 790,000 HIV-positive pregnant women. It also has distributed 128 million malaria bed nets. And it has detected and treated 7 million new cases of TB. What's more, those millions of lives have been saved despite consistent underfunding by the United States and other wealthier nations.

But there still is a chance for the U.S. to provide its fair share, and ensure that the astounding ROIs achieved by the Global Fund can be expanded to meet world and country demands. I want to live in a world where people no longer are needlessly dying from diseases we can prevent, treat or cure for just dollars a day. If the Global Fund receives full funding, from the U.S. and others, not only will we be on track to achieve MDG #6 but also:

  • 5 million more HIV-positive people will receive lifesaving ARVs

  • 6.8 million more people will be diagnosed and treated for tuberculosis

  • 190 million more bed nets will be distributed

  • 1.1 million more HIV-positive pregnant women will receive preventative treatment for their babies

  • 4.4 million more orphans and vulnerable children will receive care and support

With a three-year $6 billion U.S. pledge, all of this is possible. But other donors must do their part, too. Anything less than $20 billion in total pledges for the next three years means that some of those lives will remain in jeopardy and the Global Fund will have to make impossible choices about what to support - and who to abandon. A fully funded Global Fund is within our grasp today, as President Obama prepares to announce his pledge. May the needs and lives of millions guide his thoughts.

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