Global Fund Meeting Ends With No New Pledges; French President Heckled by AIDS Advocates at Close of Conference
A meeting of supporters of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ended yesterday in Paris with "little progress toward easing a cash crisis" and with AIDS advocates calling for supporters to make "concrete commitments" to the fund, the New York Times reports (Tagliabue, New York Times, 7/17). The meeting's conclusion coincided with the end of the four-day International AIDS Society 2nd Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment. The Global Fund has pledges totaling $4.7 billion through 2008. The fund needs $3 billion to cover grants through the end of 2004. 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 and scheduled to be awarded in October -- 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, 7/16).
No New Pledges
Although French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had called on other European leaders to pledge up to $1 billion during the meeting, it ended with "no major pledges of new funds," Reuters reports (Hirschler/Sithole, Reuters, 7/16). HHS Secretary and Global Fund Chair Tommy Thompson said he hoped the fund would have the money it needs by October (New York Times, 7/17). Baroness Amos, the United Kingdom's international development secretary, said that Britain might consider donating new money in October but first wanted to see "more evidence of the effectiveness" of the Global Fund's programs, according to the Financial Times. She added, "If there is still a shortfall in October, I would be surprised if some imaginative ways to cover it are not found" (Dyer, Financial Times, 7/17).
During the meeting, officials from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it "immediately" would provide in full its $100 million donation to the Global Fund (New York Times, 7/17). The Gates Foundation originally had said that it would give $50 million as a first installment to the fund and donate the remaining $50 million over 10 years. Dr. Helene Gayle, the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB and Reproductive Health Program director, said that the timing change was intended to boost confidence in the Global Fund and to engender further contributions, according to the Times. She added that more public funds "will be more likely as confidence in the fund grows."
Some advocates for making antiretroviral medicines widely available to developing countries yesterday staged protests at the closing of the meetings, criticizing Global Fund supporters for "failing to produce concrete commitments," the Times reports (New York Times, 7/17). Protesters chanting "Shame!" interrupted Chirac's speech for five minutes during the joint closing session of the meetings, Reuters reports. Other advocates demonstrated outside wearing Bush, Blair and Chirac masks and carrying shovels and 16 body bags meant to represent the 16,000 people worldwide who die from illnesses related to AIDS, TB and malaria. After resuming his speech, Chirac said, "I wish, today, to issue a solemn appeal. An appeal to governments of donor countries all over the world to show more generosity, despite budgetary difficulties."
European Commission President Romano Prodi said he is still "very keen" on increasing Europe's contribution to the fund to $1.1 billion annually but added that the European Union was "mov[ing] slowly." He said, "Sometimes we are like the tortoise in the fable, advancing one step at a time. But like the tortoise we get there in the end." Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem said, "Over the months ahead we have to make further steps forward. The aim is to rise to the cruising altitude [of] $7 billion a year to be achieved by 2007 and to get to that cruising altitude it's is important to keep up the pace." Irish rock star Bono -- founder of DATA, an AIDS, debt relief and trade advocacy group - said, "The world's richest countries talk a lot about the emergency of AIDS. But you don't fight a raging forest fire with incrementally bigger watering cans. You call the fire brigade to fight the crisis and stop it raging out of control" (Reuters, 7/16).
Conference Session Webcasts Available
As the official IAS conference webcaster, kaisernetwork.org provides access to webcasts for all six of the conference plenary sessions, as well as other selected sessions and resources related to the conference. More information on the conference webcasts is available online at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/paris2003.
A webcast of the Global Fund meeting will be available at 3 p.m. ET today.