Global Fund To Begin New Funding Round in March; U.S. Cuts 2005 Contribution to Fund
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday announced that it will begin accepting applications for a fifth round of project grants in March 2005 and will approve grants in September 2005, Reuters reports (Kanina, Reuters, 11/18). Although the fund initially wanted to launch its grant cycle for 2005 this month, the 19-member board unanimously voted to delay accepting proposals for five months after officials from the Bush administration proposed a six- to 12-month delay because of funding shortfalls (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 11/19). U.S. officials lobbied for the delay primarily because of what HHS estimated as a $285 million shortfall for the fund in needed funding for grants, as well as administrative, staffing and portfolio management expenses. Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem in October said that the fund faces a "critical year" in 2005 because of funding shortfalls and might not be able to award new grants (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/18).
Fifth Round Funding
With the board's approval for a fifth round of grants, the Global Fund needs $2.4 billion in 2005 to carry out its work for that year. An additional $1.4 billion is needed to renew existing grants, according to a Global Fund release. Approximately $2.7 billion will be needed after 2005 for grant renewals regardless of when new grants are distributed (Global Fund release, 11/18). So far, the fund has secured only $1.6 billion from donors for 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/18). "The Global Fund is three years old, and as it moves forward we face the dual challenge of making current grants work as quickly and effectively as possible and raising more money to meet the urgent need to scale up prevention and treatment in countries with acute needs," Feachem said, adding, "Today's decision by the board shows its commitment to meet these challenges" (Global Fund release, 11/18).
"The board is proud to announce the fifth round of funding that will deliver continued assistance in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who also chairs the fund's board, said, adding, "Today's unanimous decision reflects the unwavering commitment to turning the tide against these diseases and ensuring logistical viability of the fund" (Chhatbar, AP/Yahoo! News, 11/18). According to Jack Valenti, president of the Global Fund advocacy group Friends of the Global Fight, the fund's decision "demonstrates why the Global Fund works. Everyone agreed to the principles of fiscal prudence. Everyone agreed on the need for urgent new money. Everyone agreed to a need to focus on making current grants work. The decision also means the Global Fund needs more money in 2005, and all donors, including the U.S., need to step up to the plate and follow through on today's decisions" (Friends of the Global Fight release, 11/18). Helene Rossert-Blavier, vice-chair of the fund's board and executive director of AIDES, said, "A new round of proposals will ensure that the Global Fund continues to expand its funding. This will enable us to fulfill the hopes of millions of people around the world by providing more people with AIDS, TB and malaria treatment and increased prevention efforts" (Global Fund release, 11/18).
U.S. Contribution Cut
Although Thursday's decision to approve a fifth round of grants is a "victory for those who feared a total cutoff" of funding for new projects, the Global Fund still "finds itself short of its goals and on the defensive" with the Bush administration, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Two congressional subcommittees responsible for allocating appropriations to the fund on Thursday cut the U.S. pledge for 2005 to $350 million -- almost $200 million less than last year's donation. "This is a horrible confirmation of our fears of what the second Bush administration will bring," Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said. According to Gregg Gonsalves of Gay Men's Health Crisis, the U.S. government "has it in for the Global Fund. My sense is that the U.S. is trying to kill it." However, HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce said that "such charges are absurd" because Thompson was "instrumental" in brokering a deal to carry out a fifth round of funding, according to the Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19).
U.S., Global Fund Must 'End Pointless Rivalry,' Editorial Says
Although the fund's decision to launch a fifth round of grants "should be good news," the Bush administration's "foot dragging" almost "shut down a long list" of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria projects, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says. The U.S.-proposed delay was "typical" of the "political sideshow that undercuts the war on AIDS," while the "infighting" between the administration and the fund "imperils the fragile existence of dozens of countries depleted by the uphill fight" against the three diseases, according to the Chronicle. Although the administration has not "ignored" the HIV/AIDS pandemic -- it created the "big-budget" President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief last year -- the White House has "[g]rudgingly" contributed to the Global Fund, "kicking in the bare minimum while closely watching to see if it operates efficiently," the editorial says. The "competitive feelings on display this week are inexcusable" because a "united front ... is the only way to stop AIDS," according to the Chronicle. "Both approaches -- Washington's strict plan and the wider international effort -- have a place on the AIDS battlefront. It's time to end a pointless rivalry," the editorial concludes (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19).