Meeting of Global Fund Supporters Overshadowed by Funding Shortfall
A meeting of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria supporters today in Paris is being overshadowed by a substantial funding shortfall, which is estimated to be at least $500 million for this year alone, Agence France-Presse reports. The meeting coincides with the end of the four-day International AIDS Society's 2nd Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment (Ingham, Agence France-Presse, 7/16). The Global Fund has pledges totaling $4.7 billion through 2008. The fund needs $3 billion to cover grants through the end of 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/20). The Global Fund board in June agreed at a meeting in Geneva that it would limit disbursements for the third round of grants, which are under review, to the amount of funds currently available based on the proposals' merits. The fund has received more than 200 proposals from 85 countries requesting a total of $2 billion over two years, and about half of those proposals will likely be recommended to the board for approval (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9). AIDS advocates have estimated that the fund's shortfall is about $600 million. However, HHS Secretary and Global Fund Chair Tommy Thompson said that the exact amount of the shortfall is not yet clear. "It's a ballpark figure -- nobody knows for sure," he said, adding, "We won't know the exact amount until we find out how many more contributions come in, but we will be short" (Black, BBC News, 7/16).
No New Money
Thompson yesterday signaled that the United States, which is the largest single contributor to the fund, "had done enough for now," according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 7/16). President Bush in May signed into a law a five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative (HR 1298), which authorizes $3 billion a year for five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund. However, the amount of funding actually appropriated may be less than $1 billion and is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund only if that amount totals no more than one-third of the fund's total contributions. Therefore, in order for the total $1 billion to be appropriated, other nations must contribute more money. The House so far has approved a little more than $2 billion for all international AIDS efforts for fiscal year 2004. The Senate on Thursday approved 78-18 a nonbinding resolution calling for $3 billion in FY 2004 to fight AIDS overseas, even if the amount exceeds the ceiling mandated in Congress' annual budget resolution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15). Despite calls from former South African President Nelson Mandela yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the European Union to at least match the U.S. pledge, the European Commission yesterday made it clear that it would not make a new contribution to the fund (Hirschler, Reuters, 7/15). European Union officials said that its 15 member countries are already doing more than the United States in fighting the disease, saying that its members have pledged a total of $2.37 billion to the Global Fund. European Commission spokesperson Jean-Charles Ellermann yesterday said, "We are not going to be putting new money on the table" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15).
Several dozen AIDS advocates held a rally outside the meeting to demand that wealthy countries provide donations to the Global Fund to help buy antiretroviral drugs for developing nations. They chanted slogans and carried 16 body bags, representing the estimated 16,000 people who die each day from AIDS-related complications, TB and malaria. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, said, "The United States is spending $4 billion a month to station troops in Iraq. ... [T]hat shows how out of balance the world is right now." He added, "There's movement (on money) but it's inadequate to the task. When you think about how pathetic the size of the contributions is, it's startling we have to struggle the way we do" (Agence France-Presse, 7/16). Lucy Matthew, European director of DATA, which encourages debt relief, trade and anti-AIDS efforts in Africa, said, "There is still time for Europe to lead not lag in the fight against AIDS. But they have to believe in their hearts that this is an emergency" (Reuters, 7/15). Pierre-Andre Wiltzer, France's minister for cooperation, who chaired the meeting with Thompson, said that it is vital for fund supporters to "scale up support" and provide "regular and foreseeable" resources to carry out long-term programs. "We have to think about the best way for reaching this goal," Wiltzer said, adding, "If the fund fails, we won't get a second chance and we won't be able to say we didn't know anything about it." Thompson said that the meeting was intended to be a forum for discussing practical problems and assessing progress but was not meant to be a "pledging session." He added, "It's going to take a very concentrated and coordinated effort among governments, private entities and individuals to win this battle and we're going to need all the help that we can get. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose ... this is a war like no other war we've been involved in" (Agence France-Presse, 7/16).
A webcast of the meeting will be available at 3 p.m. ET tomorrow.