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Global AIDS Fund - 2002-04-22

On Thursday (4/24), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will announce how it will begin distributing hundreds of million dollars this year. This is the first time the fund will disburse money. The humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders, is calling on the Global Fund to ensure that access to treatment is available for millions of people suffering from the diseases. VOA’s Joe De Capua reports.

The idea for a Global Fund was first seriously discussed about two years ago at a summit of the world’s richest nations in Okinawa. It gained momentum in April 2001, when U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the spending of seven to ten billion dollars annually to fight the diseases. It’s estimated more than six million people die each year from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In February of this year, the fund began accepting proposals on how the money should be spent. More than 300 proposals were submitted that would cost about five billion dollars over five years. The fund currently contains more than one billion dollars. But some observers say only a fraction of that amount – possibly 200 million dollars – will be distributed in this first round of allocations.

Among the non-governmental organizations monitoring the Global Fund’s progress is Doctors Without Borders. Rachel Cohen is with the group’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.

She says, "It’s very unclear to us how many proposals will be funded. How much the total grants will amount to. What proportion will be for HIV, versus TB, versus malaria. And within that it’s very unclear what proportion will be for prevention and other interventions, as opposed to or in addition to treatment. And in particular, how much of the fund might be available to purchase desperately needed treatments for HIV, TB and malaria."

Ms. Cohen says Doctors Without Borders is urging fund officials to ensure that treatment is a priority.

"We feel strongly as a medical humanitarian organization that treatment is a medical and ethical imperative," she says. "And that in making funding decisions this week, the board has to take bold steps to support new, scientifically sound life saving treatment programs. And to issue a clearly articulated public statement that will indicate that access to treatment is an indispensable part of any truly comprehensive proposal to control HIV, TB or malaria."

She says history has shown that prevention programs alone will not control the spread of the three diseases.

Money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is donated by governments and private organizations. It is expected to announce its decisions Thursday, April 24th.