03/26/2013 11:04 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Here I Am: Calling for leadership from the BRICS countries

This week, Durban South Africa has played host to the 5th BRICS Summit which brings together the world's leading emerging economies, Brazil, Russian, India, China and South Africa. Similar to G8 and G20 Summits, the focus is on common areas of importance and officially aims "to achieve peace, security, development and cooperation."

A number of African civil society organizations that work in the area of health have been focusing their efforts on the BRICS Summit in order to add commentary to the BRICS process about the importance of cooperation in the area of health generally and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria more specifically. I believe that among the BRICS countries, South Africa has shown leadership that I believe it is important to recognize, like the recent initiative to find and treat TB in prisons announced a few days ago for World TB Day. It's important to capitalize on this leadership and find ways to expand efforts within BRICS countries and in south-south collaboration on health issues.

This weeks feature video comes from Brazil and is in Portuguese.

I had the chance last week to connect with a friend and former colleague, Rosemary Mburu the Acting Executive Director of the World AIDS Campaign International in South Africa. I asked her a few questions to share with you here around the BRICS Summit and their work to push for enhanced cooperation amongst BRICS countries on health.

Interview with Rosemary Mburu, World AIDS Campaign International

Q - Can you tell me a little about why health and AIDS, TB and malaria are issues that BRICS countries should be collaborating on?

Health issues, particularly those related to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are very serious concerns in all the BRICS countries. The 5 BRICS countries account for approximately 43% of the world population, yet only two of the members, India and China, together have almost 40% of the worlds TB cases. BRICS countries have almost 60% of the world's cases of multi-drug resistant TB which is a more difficult to find, more difficult to treat and more expensive to treat mutation of TB. In South Africa, where we are for this years Summit, only 1.4 million of people living with HIV are receiving life-saving ART treatment.

BRICS Summits have traditionally paid attention to health issues and this past January, BRICS Health Ministers made an important statement about re-committing to last years Summit goal. In 2012, BRICS countries agreed to address emerging health threats and agreed to cooperate and share their respective experience and expertise in monitoring and fighting HIV in particular. They agreed to make sure they protected the availability of affordable ARV drugs in trade agreements and they recommitted to strengthen collaboration and access to technologies BRICS countries themselves are developing in the fight against malaria.

Q - Tell me a little more about what you hope to get BRICS countries to do around health?

So we, a number of African organizations who work on health and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria issues have come together to call on BRICS countries to do a couple of things, three things in particular. We would like to see all the BRICS countries increase their own domestic resources funding health generally and R&D. We would also like to see them increase what we call south-south collaboration. The second thing we think is critical is to have the BRICS countries provide global leadership to include HIV, TB and malaria in the post-2015 agenda as that continues to be developed in the coming years. The final thing we are looking for is to see BRICS leadership in supporting the replenishment of the Global Fund in 2013 and longer-term sustainable funding for the Fund.

We presented this call to action to delegates at this weeks Summit.

Q - Rosemary I think you and I know, but could you tell my readers a little bit about why, if the BRICS countries themselves have made commitments like in the January statement, why is it necessary to continue to push for action on health issues?

Generally we are concerned that despite these important commitments which certainly show some level of commitment to action on health is needed, that BRICS countries are falling short in terms of their own health financing and in terms of south-south collaboration, much of BRICS development financing favours mineral rich countries but disregards health and equity issues related to the overall development of these countries.

We also feel that we need leadership from the worlds emerging economies to help achieve the health MDGs and to push for real, specific health targets goals in the post-2015 development goals, particularly in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria.

Q - What have you and your colleagues in the African Civil Society Platform been saying about BRICS countries and the Global Fund?

I would say that BRICS countries have not been a consistent donor partner of the Global Fund. Despite that though, they are a very important partner in achieving a fully-funded Fund and BRICS commitment to helping to meet the targets the Global Fund will set out in the coming weeks as it launches its replenishment process.

There are two parts to this in my mind. The first is that with so much of the burden of AIDS and TB in particular in the BRICS countries themselves, they must continue to increase their own investments in health to help achieve the global targets related to AIDS, TB and malaria. In addition to this domestic health financing, I also believe that if through south to south collaboration and assistance BRICS countries provided technical assistance and service in health in addition to investing in economic growth and development we could see other countries increase their capacity to help reach AIDS, TB and malaria targets.

The Global Fund doesn't operate in isolation - if some countries are able to increase their own investments, Fund resources can be freed up to do more in countries with greater needs. As African Civil Society we also want to specifically call upon South Africa to lead in the support for a Fully Funded Global Fund at BRICS and at G20


Lucy Chesire: TB-HIV advocate from Kenya, Alternate Board Member of the Global Fund Board Communities Delegation.

About the Here I Am campaign: The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, TB and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and the lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world's most deadly diseases.