06/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Saving Lives Costs Money

Today, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that 1.75 million people with HIV/AIDS around the world are receiving lifesaving anti-retroviral (ARV) drug treatment for free through Global Fund-financed programs. This number highlights the significant progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS since the inception of the Global Fund in 2002 when only approximately 300,000 of people in need of ARVs were on treatment.

These numbers are proof that the U.S.'s investment in the Global Fund, a public-private partnership funding programs to eliminate the world's most deadly yet preventable diseases, is working. Through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund has significantly helped provide infrastructure, prevention and treatment services, food and free ARV treatment to those infected and affected by AIDS around the world. More than ever before, more people are receiving the treatment they need and thankfully, are living longer, healthier lives. This is a life-long commitment, so it is critical for the U.S. to maintain its strong support.

The AIDS pandemic is the greatest public health challenge the world has ever faced. It has ravaged populations across countries and socio-economic status, hitting the parts of the world hardest where access to even basic health care and infrastructure are at best, limited.
Yet as evidenced by the numbers just released the Global Fund's long-term strategy has had significant impact in some of the hardest to reach places. For example, in Swaziland, one of the 136 countries the Global Fund works in, almost one third of the adult population is HIV positive. Before 2002, only 900 people were receiving AIDS treatment in the country. With Global Fund support, the government of Swaziland is aggressively establishing treatment centers, providing food support, and enrolling orphans and vulnerable children in schools though community-based programs. As a result, nearly 25,000 people are now receiving ARV treatment through 7 newly established treatment centers. Global Fund grants are also providing nearly 35,000 people with food support and enrolling more than 21,000 orphans and vulnerable children in formal schools.

Investment in the fight against HIV/AIDS is about more than just statistics, it's about saving lives, families and entire communities. This is a compelling story that is being told in an exciting new exhibition called Access to Life that opens at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC on June 14 and runs through July 20.

Through a partnership between the Global Fund and Magnum Photos, Access to Life chronicles the lives of AIDS patients as they begin ARV treatment in nine different countries -- bringing to life the difference that the Global Fund is making. The people in these photo studies have made remarkable improvements in their health and well-being as a result of their treatment. Without the Global Fund, these individuals would have a very different and tragic story to tell.

We should celebrate today's treatment announcement and the stories told through Access to Life, but it is also a moment to recommit ourselves to do even more in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. This summer Congress will work to renew the PEPFAR program, which includes continued support of the Global Fund over the next five years. PEPFAR has been a powerful demonstration of U.S. leadership and compassion around the world and its investments are paying major dividends. The bill, which overwhelming passed with bipartisan support in the House, must do the same in the Senate -- not only to ensure that this lifesaving work continues into future - but also to send a clear message to countries around the world that the U.S. is fully committed to continuing these programs around the world.

The Global Fund's vision is to invest the world's money to save the lives of those affected by AIDS, TB and malaria. This is making a real and dramatic difference. While the U.S. provides nearly one-third of all Global Fund financing, we in the U.S (almost more importantly) take a vital, leadership role with this commitment. We need to remember that now, more than ever, is a critical time in this fight against some of the greatest global health challenges of our time.