Ten years ago, 19,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa were the first to receive free HIV treatment. That was 0.1% of all the people living with HIV in the region that year. Paying for these drugs was a bold move by the Botswana government -- one that said to the world, "We're not going to wait for you to help us" -- but it wasn't nearly enough to begin to end the epidemic.
Thankfully, the people of Botswana didn't have to go it alone. Days after their government announced that it would begin paying for treatment, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created. Now, a decade later, more than 5 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa (almost 7 million worldwide) are receiving life-saving treatment thanks to the Global Fund and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
It's easy to take this accomplishment for granted, but treatment everywhere in the world has been the result of an unprecedented collaboration between advocates, healthcare workers, and governments alike. Thanks to private individuals, celebrities, corporations, and other donors, organizations including our own and the Global Fund have been able to discover more effective HIV technologies, reduce the price of drugs, and deliver treatment and care to those in need. From the Caribbean to Asia, millions of lives have been saved by the generosity of people everywhere in the world.
Since 2002, the Global Fund has distributed more than $22 billion in grants to 150 countries. As a result, 3.3 million people have received HIV treatment and more than 1 million pregnant women have received the drugs they needed to prevent HIV infection in their babies. These results aren't exclusive to HIV, though: More than 230 million people have received treatment for malaria and 7.7 million for tuberculosis over the last decade.
Ten years of hard work. Millions of lives saved. This should be a moment to celebrate. Unfortunately, the fight begins again.
Economic uncertainty and donor skittishness have combined to threaten the future of the Global Fund. For the first time since 2002, the Fund has had to cancel any new grant making due to a lack of resources. While millions will continue to receive the benefit of current programs, progress will stagnate. On top of this, news of a transition in leadership at the Global Fund has created anxiety where none is required.
This couldn't come at a worse time. Recent science has shown us that we have the power to end the AIDS epidemic. Last May, researchers discovered that early initiation of HIV treatment can reduce the chance that a partner will become infected with HIV by 96%. Scientific knowledge of HIV and its vulnerabilities has advanced to the point where we can not only save lives, but we can begin to end the disease all together. To do so, we must expand treatment now, everywhere to everyone. Ending the AIDS epidemic is no longer a hopeful metaphor -- it is a choice. Do we begin to end this disease now, or do we blithely pass it on to future generations?
The Obama Administration has made its decision, calling for an "AIDS-Free Generation" on World AIDS Day 2011 and recommitting to the Global Fund and PEPFAR as equally important partners. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Saudi Arabian Government have as well; each recently announced additional resources for the Global Fund to ensure it can continue doing its work.
Last week the world marked the 10th anniversary of the Global Fund. We must use the momentum from this moment to make the choice starkly clear. As a global community, we can act on our new knowledge and make the relatively modest investments in the Global Fund that could genuinely herald the end of the global AIDS epidemic. Or we can back away from our commitments and starve this extraordinary collaborative enterprise of the resources it needs to succeed, thereby depriving millions of men, women, and children of life-saving programs. It is really that simple.
We ask you, in recognition of the 10th anniversary, wherever you are in the world, to add your voice in support of the Global Fund. Urge your legislators to renew their support for the Global Fund. Tell everyone in your neighborhood or apartment, village or town, on Facebook and Twitter: I support the Global Fund. Remind them that the failure of the Global Fund will be a collective failure of humanity to bring an end to a global epidemic that has already killed 30 million people worldwide.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $325 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
About M•A•C AIDS Fund
The M•A•C AIDS Fund, the heart and soul of M•A•C Cosmetics, was established in 1994 to support men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally. The M•A•C AIDS Fund is a pioneer in HIV/AIDS funding, providing financial support to organizations working with underserved regions and populations. As the largest corporate non-pharmaceutical giver in the arena, the M•A•C AIDS Fund is committed to addressing the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS by supporting diverse organizations around the world that provide a wide range of services to people living with HIV/AIDS. To date, The M•A•C AIDS Fund has raised $235 million (USD) exclusively through the sale of M•A•C's VIVA GLAM Lipstick and Lipglass donating 100 percent of the sale price to fight HIV/AIDS. For more information visit http://www.macaidsfund.org.