Making moves against the AIDS crisis

The global AIDS catastrophe is the most devastating health crisis in history.

Dec. 1 marked the 18th annual World AIDS Day, a day on which to commemorate those lost and to energize a sustained and effective response to the AIDS pandemic. According to recent U.N. estimates, there are 38 million adults and 2.3 million children living with AIDS, nearly 5 million of whom were infected in 2005. If these trends continue, there will be more than 25 million AIDS orphans in Africa alone by 2010.

This year’s World AIDS Day, themed “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise,” focused on the need of holding international community accountable for the commitments made in the fight against AIDS. The United States, along with other G-8 countries, has committed to halving AIDS deaths by 2015, and to work toward universal AIDS treatment by 2010.

If the world is to achieve these goals, however, a steep scaling up of funding commitments to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is required. The Global Fund is an effective and transparent organization created to finance a dramatic turnaround in the fight against three of the world’s most devastating diseases. Global Fund programs succeed because they strengthen and empower local governments and community-based organizations already attuned to their own unique needs in fighting the AIDS pandemic.

The United States, however, falls significantly short of its recognized share of funding support to the Global Fund. Of the $3.7 billion pledged to the fund over the next two years, the U.S. administration has committed only 16 percent, well below the one-third “fair share” commensurate with the size and wealth of the United States. The U.S. Congress appears ready to increase the $300 million requested for 2006 by President George W. Bush with an appropriation of as much as $550 million. This amount is still $150 million short of the United States’ responsible share of the $700 million required to meet this year’s Global Fund need.

After three years of operation, the multilateral Global Fund has proven to be one of the most effective approaches to international AIDS funding. The Global Fund enables countries to implement highly effective, locally based interventions and, in many places, is the primary external source of funding for HIV treatment. The Global Fund is doing critical work on the ground, but it needs a firm commitment from donors to continue, particularly in the coming year.

The global AIDS catastrophe is the most devastating health crisis in human history. If it is not halted, it has the potential to destabilize entire regions, with enormous effects on political, social and economic development. The Global Fund’s integrated approach, including substantial health care infrastructure components, is a crucial and effective way to address the AIDS pandemic.

Please urge your congressional leaders to provide at least $550 million to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to proceed with $150 million in supplemental funding as soon as possible. Additionally, please encourage a $2.5 billion annual commitment by the United States to The Global Fund until the AIDS crisis is controlled. Remind your congressional leaders to keep the United States’ promise to do its part in fighting global AIDS. The future of our world depends on it.

Stephanie Smith is a University medical student. Please send comment to [email protected]