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New Funding for Global AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Program in Doubt

The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is holding its board meeting in Africa this week, the first time it will be held on the continent. The focus will be on whether or not a new round of funding to combat three of the world's most deadly diseases will be announced for next year.

A spokesman for the Global Fund, Jon Liden, says board members will be wrestling with when, or even if, they will announce a new round of funding for next year, largely because the number of pledges made to date falls short of what is needed.

"It will depend on whether the board says, even if we at this stage don't have pledges to cover another billion dollars worth of new grants, we will still hope for and assume that we will get it by July when we need to have this money, and we therefore can announce the round right away," said Mr. Liden. "It's a discussion between the fiscally prudent and the fiscally more optimistic."

This year's board meeting of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is set to begin in Arusha, Tanzania Wednesday, with the presidents of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria opening the session.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson is to chair the meeting.

The Global Fund spokesman, Mr. Liden says the board's strategy in the past has been to announce a new round of funding before pledges committed to the total amount, in an effort to pressure donors to pay up.

Donor countries have so far pledged $900 million for next year. But the Global Fund needs about $2.3 billion for 2005. Mr. Liden says he believes donors will come through, because of the prominence of AIDS on the agenda of next year's summit of G-8 industrialized countries.

"So we are quite optimistic that donors will step up to the plate and really increase their commitment substantially in 2005, but we don't have the proof of that yet and that's why these discussions at this board meeting will be so difficult," he said.

For the past four years, the independent foundation has dispersed $3 billion in 128 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 deaths in the world 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.