By Heather Johnston, Dignitas International’s President and CEO
On September 16th, Canada is hosting the 5th Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Montreal. The event brings together heads of state, health leaders, and other important representatives from around the world to pledge support the Fund’s goal to raise US$13 billion (CA$17.2b) over the next three years. These pledges represent our commitment as a global community to saving millions of lives and ultimately to bring the AIDS epidemic to an end.
The Global Fund is a financing mechanism that provides much needed support in more than 140 low and middle income countries impacted by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It has already saved an estimated 17 million lives since its inception in 2002, and it also supports the United Nations’ target of ending the three epidemics by 2030.
So many lives have been saved, but UNAIDS reports that there were still more than 36.9 million people living with HIV in 2014, including more than one million new infections in sub-Saharan Africa alone. For the fight against AIDS, the Replenishment Conference represents an important opportunity to secure much needed funding to expand access to antiretroviral treatment that helps stop new infections and keep the epidemic in check.
In many developing countries, including Malawi, the Global Fund is the primary funding mechanism for HIV medicines. By ensuring that a stable supply of antiretroviral and other medicines used to treat patients living with HIV is available, the Global Fund has enabled organizations like Dignitas to scale up HIV treatment and care, reaching over one million people in Malawi alone.
I can’t state this strongly enough: without the Global Fund, Dignitas’ work to provide life-saving treatment would not be possible.
As host to the conference and a pledge of CA $785 million, Canada is making a strong statement about its commitment to the Fund and its goals. Countries including France, the United States, the European Commission, Japan and others have also made strong pledges, and we’re expecting to see many more over the next few days.
It’s extremely encouraging to see Canada taking a leadership role in tackling these three critical global health issues. But more funds are still needed to turn the corner on these epidemics, and we hope Canada and other pledging nations will contribute more to the Global Fund to help it reach its goals.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Canada has already committed more than CA$2.1 billion to the Fund since 2002, including CA$650 million for 2014-2016. But Canada’s contributions have only increased marginally compared to other similar economies since 2002, a trend that presents a risk for the Fund’s success if increases do not keep pace with the need for treatment and care. Increasingly we are asking low- and middle-income countries to increase their contributions to the Fund, and we need to do the same.
The end of AIDS is within our reach, but there is still a real risk of falling short if pledges from Canada and other countries don’t increase. The time to act is now – any shortfall of funds could cause the AIDS epidemic rebound, particularly in some of the world’s most affected countries where the burden of disease is high.
I will be at the Replenishment Conference on September 16th and you can follow with me on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news as the conference develops. Please also help spread the word about the urgent need for big Global Fund commitments by tweeting
— Dignitas Intl (@DignitasIntl) September 14, 2016
To learn more about how Dignitas helps provide frontline care for HIV patients in Malawi and how you can make a difference, please visit our website at dignitasinternational.org.