Global Fund Meets in Geneva to Launch Initiative; Grants Could Begin This Spring
The first grants distributed by the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, established last year by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, could be released as early as April, Reuters reports. The fund's 18-member board -- composed of representatives from donor and recipient nations, nongovernmental organizations and private donors -- approved rules for the disbursement of grants at its first two-day meeting, which ended yesterday. "With this board meeting, the fund has become operational," acting executive director Paul Ehmer said. The fund, which was created last year and is estimated to need between $7 billion and $10 billion annually to fight the three diseases, has raised $1.9 billion so far. About $700 million of that money will be distributed this year, and officials hope that as the fund proves successful more donations will be made. The first round of project proposals can be presented in six weeks. The proposals will then be evaluated by a soon-to-be-named technical committee and sent back to the board for a vote (Waddington, Reuters, 1/29). Funding priority will go to projects that are already in development but have not been initiated because of a lack of money (Nullis, Associated Press, 1/29). "This fund is so important because we have good plans but no money. It is a scandal because the technology exists to treat these diseases that ravage our people," Francis Omaswa of the Ugandan Health Ministry said, noting that $10 could cover TB treatment for a single person and $2 could buy medicine to help alleviate the symptoms of malaria (Reuters, 1/29).
Treatment vs. Prevention
The board will look to balance appropriations between prevention and treatment programs, despite some protests that the resources would best be spent on prevention. The French government and a number of HIV/AIDS advocates have "insisted" that treatment receive funding and that the drugs be obtained at the cheapest possible price (Nullis, Associated Press, 1/29). Treatment and prevention efforts are "mutually reinforcing," the Stop AIDS Campaign said in a statement, noting that to "be effective, these epidemics must be tackled on all fronts -- including by making a wide range of drugs more available and strengthening the health systems to deliver them." The organization urged the fund to "declar[e] its commitment to fund the purchase of generic versions of patented drugs where appropriate" in accordance with the World Trade Organization's Doha declaration, which "affirmed that international patent law should be interpreted in a way that supports public health and access to medicines." The group also asked rich nations to "urgently scale up their efforts" to fight HIV/AIDS by contributing to the fund (Stop AIDS Campaign release, 1/29).