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Opinion

World Health Day: A Reminder of Resources Required to Meet Global Health Goals

The focus of World Health Day — taking place on April 7 — is universal health coverage. It’s a reminder to global and national leaders to take action to ensure that all people have affordable access to quality health services.

Key to achieving this goal is robust and highly effective health financing structures, of which the Global Fund is an excellent example.

The Global Fund raises and invests nearly $4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in communities most in need. It’s helped save 27 million lives and provided prevention, treatment and care services to hundreds of millions of people. As a collective of grantmakers funding the fight against HIV/AIDS, Funders Concerned About AIDS, knows well how critically important the Global Fund is and how effective its resources have been in fueling progress.

But continued progress is far from assured.

Without increased investment, we run the risk of backsliding. HIV infection rates remain far too high, with 1.8 million people still infected each year. Particularly vulnerable populations, such as adolescent girls and young women in Africa, are at disproportionate risk.

The United States has a history of longstanding leadership in the battle against HIV/AIDS. As the 2020 appropriations process unfolds, it’s essential that this support continues through a contribution of at least $1.56 billion to the Global Fund.

Since its inception, the Global Fund has rightfully enjoyed strong bipartisan support. This good will is more necessary than ever, given alarming proposed cuts to global health programs in the president’s budget. The White House budget outlines a 29 percent cut to U.S. contributions to the Global Fund, a $3.3 billion cap on our three-year contributions ($1 billion below the last cycle), and a far-more limited ability to match other funders. 

There are also enormous proposed reductions to bilateral global health programs. If enacted, this would signal to the rest of the world that the United States is retreating from its leadership in global health. Further, it would significantly undermine efforts to combat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and risk rolling back decades of progress.

The Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment, taking place in October, provides a unique opportunity for America to invest in putting the world on track to end the AIDS epidemic, as well as the scourges of tuberculosis and malaria. Replenishment is an opportunity to send a signal to the world of the United States’ continued leadership in global health. Because we are limited by law to provide no more than 33 percent of all Global Fund resources, a strong U.S. commitment encourages other countries that don’t want to leave money on the table to similarly step up the fight.

The Global Fund’s Investment Case for the Sixth Replenishment determined that at least $14 billion is needed to scale up evidence-based programming and put the world on track to end three epidemics. These funds will help save 16 million lives, avert 234 million infections and help put us on course to meet global health goals.

With more than three decades in the fight, FCAA members remember the HIV/AIDS landscape before the Global Fund. We have seen firsthand the difference it has made in mobilizing and deploying resources at the right time, in the right places and at the necessary scale. We know the enormous risk the world faces if the Global Fund does not receive the resources it needs.

Though the U.S. government is the largest donor to the Global Fund, FCAA members are very willing partners. The contributions of private philanthropy, though only 2 percent of global resources for HIV/AIDS, complement donor government resources.

Private HIV/AIDS philanthropy is catalytic, addressing challenges to progress and leveraging its unique ability to drive funding where it is most needed. Advocacy, arguably the biggest lever to help mobilize the fight against HIV and AIDS, is largely funded from private resources. 

Philanthropic resources have become an integral component to both Global Fund contributions and the global HIV/AIDS response as a whole. Because the fight isn’t yet won, we urge continued and increased collaboration between the philanthropic sector and public funders to allocate robust, well-aligned resources to reach the populations most at risk.

World Health Day reminds us that we cannot waver in efforts to defeat AIDS as a public health threat. Effectively funding the fight against it and other public health threats, through mechanisms such as the Global Fund, ensures that we may yet achieve the 2030 goals for global health.

 

John Barnes is executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS, the leading voice on philanthropic resources allocated to the global AIDS epidemic, and for nearly 30 years, Barnes has worked in government, nonprofit and corporate settings, and with community-based organizations to serve people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses.

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