Partnerships That Save Lives

07/02/2011 01:06 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2011

Anyone who despairs at the sheer scale of the challenge that AIDS represents should hear the story of Jacqueline, a 21-year-old Brazilian mother who I met this week in Sao Paulo during a Global Fund conference. She was born HIV-positive and grew up destitute, but was put on treatment as a child. The treatment saved her life and after forming a stable relationship with a young man, Jacqueline gave birth last year to a healthy HIV-free baby, Heitor.

"I was born homeless, the fourth daughter my alcoholic mother, Irineia, had with her third companion," Jacqueline told the conference. "At the time my mother was only 21. Together with her and my younger brother, I survived until the age of 7 by living rough on the streets of the town of Campinas."

Her survival and the birth of her HIV-free daughter are testimony to the success of Brazil's policy of putting HIV treatment within reach of the poor and disinherited.

She ended her speech with a plea which I wholeheartedly endorse: "I ask this forum to make the biggest effort possible so that the Global Fund can help change the destiny of millions of adolescents and young people living with HIV/AIDS, young people like me."

Brazil was one of the one of the first countries in the developing world to establish universal access to antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV. Jacqueline was one of the beneficiaries of this extraordinary success and it is fitting that she was speaking at what we in the Global Fund consider a kind of "parliament" held every two years to bring together our partners from over a 100 countries.

In something unique for an international institution involved in global health and development, that everyone can contribute in this partnership forum to design a strategy for where the Global Fund -- an organization that has already saved more than 6 million lives -- should be in five years' time. Among those attending was an AIDS activist-turned-politician from Nepal, a businessman from Morocco and an academic from Iran.

Without such strong global partnerships, we would not have made the remarkable progress in the fight against AIDS that we have seen in the last decade.

Ten years ago, with the exception of Brazil, there was virtually no one on antiretroviral treatment in the developing world. Today, nearly 7 million are on treatment and mortality and incidence are falling in a large part of the world. Results released by the Global Fund this week showed that 3.2 million people are now receiving antiretroviral medication from programs the Global Fund supports.

Malaria was a neglected disease at the beginning of this century. We are now approaching universal access to bed nets in Africa. There are at least twelve countries that have shown a reduction of 50 per cent or more in either confirmed malaria cases or admissions and deaths in just the last few years. In the last one year alone, Global Fund-supported programs have distributed 70 million bed nets, enabling an estimated 140 million people to protect themselves from malaria, on the assumption that each bed net protects two people.

TB mortality has fallen by more than a third since the '90s. In recent years TB has been diagnosed much more effectively and DOTS has expanded significantly. An additional 1.2 million people were reached with effective tuberculosis treatment through programs backed by the Global Fund in the 12 months to June 2011, bringing the accumulated total since 2003 to 8.2 million. TB mortality is declining in many countries and we are on track to achieve international TB targets, with the notable exception of multi-drug-resistant TB.

These results show what we can achieve when we work together in a collective global effort, in the type of partnership that we are celebrating this week in Sao Paulo. As we embark now on a new drive to reach the ambitious target of putting 15 million people on AIDS treatment by 2015, we must remember that there are many like Jacqueline out there who depends on this partnership growing stronger and delivering even better results.