The top U.S. health official says the United States supports the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculoses and malaria. But as international officials gather in Tanzania for two days of talks on ways to fight the diseases, some activists are expressing concern about how the programs will be funded.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson told reporters in Arusha late Wednesday the United States is committed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an independent foundation that collects and distributes money to programs dealing with the three diseases world-wide.
Topping the agenda of the Global Fund's two-day board meeting, which opens in Arusha Thursday, is when - or even if - the board will announce a fifth round of funding for new and existing programs.
Board members are split over the issue. Some say the Global Fund should hold off making the announcement until pledges from donor countries come close to the target, while others say donors will respond to international pressure to pay up if a new round is announced now.
U.S. Secretary Thompson, who will chair the Global Fund meeting, said the fifth round may be postponed for several months if there is not enough money committed by the donors. "The United States is not opposed to the fifth round. The United States wants to make sure that we're able to make our commitments. We all have to realize in order to have a fifth round, we gotta make sure that our commitments to the first, second and third and fourth round are kept," he said.
But many activists and non-government organizations are worried that if the fifth round of funding is not announced at this week's board meeting, no new or even some existing programs would receive money in 2005 because of the long process between the time a funding round is announced and when grants are actually dispersed.
Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa told reporters he hopes the board would proceed with its funding announcement at this week's meeting. "I'm going to fight to see that adequate resources are allocated by caring countries and communities. And I think we can be persuasive enough," he said.
After talking to reporters, President Mkapa joined Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni in urging board members to commit themselves to a new round of funding and for donor countries and private donors to increase their pledges.
Since its beginning in 2002, the Global Fund has dispersed three-billion-dollars in about 130 countries. Some 60 percent of that funding has gone to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in Africa. Almost every African country has been a recipient.
The United Nations estimates that about 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, 90 percent of the one million worldwide deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that malaria is responsible for at least 20 percent of all deaths among children under age five on the continent.