The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria collected $11.7 billion in pledges this week. The pledges – which cover the next three years – were made by 40 countries, private foundations and corporations at the fund’s replenishment meeting in New York.
UNAIDS says it welcomes the pledges, including the $4 billion commitment from the United States. However, it warns there is still an “overall funding shortfall for the AIDS response.”
Many activists and NGOs had said the global fund needed $20 billion dollars to sustain current programs and create new ones. They also said $13 billion was the bare minimum needed to “keep the fund’s doors open.”
On the plus side….
Pradeep Kakkattill, chief of UNAIDS’ effectiveness division, says, “Overall, I think it was a significant first step towards what we really see as a fully funded global fund response. I think the good news is certainly we have seen a 20 percent increase in commitments compared to what we had in 2007. That’s good news. We have two billion more than what was committed in 2007.”
He describes it as a “positive” response, considering the current state of the world economy.
“We also don’t see the meeting in New York as an end. We see that as a beginning of a process. There are some donors that have not yet committed and I’m sure that they will be coming in over the next few months. So we see this as an ongoing process,” he says.
On the negative side….
Kakkattill, “What we really believe is that the current (funding) levels are probably not sufficient. We would push for a slightly higher number. We also think that we need to see some level of sustainable commitment from some of the emerging economies, so that they are investing their own resources when they’re scaling-up the response. But we’ll need to reconfigure those figures and see what it really means when it comes to operations.”
He adds, “I certainly don’t think we’ll be closing the doors at this point of time with the current figures we have received. We need more, no doubt about it.”
New funding ideas
“There is a need for innovative ways for mobilizing resources – not just the traditional donors, but really look at some of the innovative financing mechanisms like having a levy on airlines. Similarly, we want to expand investments from the private sector. Maybe try and expand the funding base to look at the G20 (countries) and other emerging economies,” he says.
There have been varying estimates on what the global fund needs. They range from a minimum of $13 billion to a high of $20 billion.
Kakkattill says, “There were three scenarios, which the global fund put out. There was the $13 billion as being the lowest estimated need. Then there was a mid-level of $17 billion and then there was the high scenario of $20 billion.”
He says the estimates are models based on current funding levels, but he says “there are a number of unknowns when you really look at what resources are needed.” The unknowns, he says, raise the question of how much would be funded by external sources and how much by in-country resources.
Treatment & prevention
The UNAIDS official estimates about 5 million people worldwide are now receiving anti-retroviral drugs. A little more than half that number are getting treatment through fund-related programs.
“Over the last six years,” he says, “there’s been about a 13 fold increase in the number of people who are receiving treatment.”
However, it’s estimated at least 10 million people should be on treatment. “There is a gap between the number of people receiving treatment now and the number of people who need treatment,” he says.
UNAIDS says more money should also be invested in prevention.
“ (In) twenty-two of the most affected countries of sub-Saharan Africa, there’s been a reduction of new infections by more than 25 percent. Certainly, (it’s) much cheaper to do prevention compared to treatment. It’s about three to four times more expensive to look at treatment compared to having somebody on prevention,” he says.