AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are the world's most deadly diseases. Each year, they account for 6 million deaths, or one out of every 10 on the planet. And it's estimated that 80 percent of the victims live in the world's poorest countries, those least able to cope with this public health calamity.
In 2006, multilateral institutions, governments and private foundations contributed $10 billion dollars to fight the killer diseases. Still, health experts say major donors are not meeting their commitments and that is creating a funding gap of major proportions.
"Less than 50 percent of the funding for the three diseases is actually being provided by donor governments, private foundations and the developing governments themselves," says Sue Perez, who follows health trends for RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy group whose mission is to generate public and political will to end poverty and hunger worldwide.
Funding Gap Widens by Billions
Perez says if this pattern continues she expects the funding gap to widen. "For HIV/AIDS, for example, the projected need is $18 billion for 2007 and $22 billion for 2008, of which $8.3 billion is available."
The case is similar with TB prevention efforts, which could suffer a shortfall of $31 billion over the next decade and also for anti-malaria programs, which if funding patterns stay the same, will receive two-thirds less than the $3 billion dollars they need annually.
The G8 countries and multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are the major donors. Private foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, valued at $29 billion, contribute more than 10 percent of total global funding.
Earlier this year the Gates Foundation received $30 billion from the world's second richest man, Warren Buffet. "It really has provided a challenge to the [G8] donor countries to actually step up and provide the same level of fair share funding that the foundations are providing," says RESULTS' Perez.
Also in 2006, the Stop TB Partnership announced its action plan to reverse the rising incidence of TB by 2015. The coalition of over 500 organizations worldwide has raised an estimated $2.5 billion of the $5.6 billion to support the initiative.
Poorer Nations Need Funds to Provide Health Services
In 2006, African leaders held a summit meeting in Nigeria where they signed a declaration pledging to provide universal access to treatment for the three diseases by 2010. Hoosen Coovadia, professor of HIV/AIDS research at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, says the meeting underscored the overwhelming challenge of trying to control disease with failing health care systems.
"Most funders hope their money will be used in a way that deals directly with HIV/AIDS, malaria or TB, and also builds up a sustainable base of health care workers, clinics and hospitals and other facilities to deal with these problems," Coovadia says.
Boosted Economy helps Build Public Health Infrastructure
Coovadia says the solution in the long run has as much to do with economics as it does with health care. He says governments must resolve debt and trade barrier issues that can help a nation become self-sufficient, "so that they can look after their own population with an appropriate degree of health services."
While Coovadia advocates that nations follow through on their pledges to fund the war on infectious diseases, he says simply throwing money at the problem won't make everyone healthier. He says the best hope is for governments to strengthen their economies so they can support the financial burden of health care.