A renowned economist, Prof Jeffrey Sachs, has said the recent decision by the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to cancel its next round of funding is “the single biggest setback” in fighting infectious diseases in the last decade and could result in a major scale back of programmes.
He has, therefore, urged practitioners in global health to make their voices “loudly heard” because if these cuts go through, “it is game over” for the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
Prof Sachs said this when he delivered the opening lecture at the 60th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Ghana and 149 other countries that rely on the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are in serious risk of losing the gains made in tackling these diseases.
Due to unexpected financial difficulties, the Global Fund intends to scale down its activities from 2012, a decision which will leave countries in a desperate situation.
The Global Fund is an international financing institution that invests the world’s money to save lives. To date, it has committed US$ 22.6 billion to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programmes against the three diseases in 150 countries.
In November this year, during the fund’s board meeting in Accra, it decided to cancel the next round of funding and declared that new funding would not be considered until 2014 because of what it called deep uncertainties in future donor pledges.
However, the fund expects to disburse roughly $10 billion from 2011 to 2013 from earlier commitments.
“The effective interventions, including ones that you have pioneered, are all at risk. Now not only are we not having a breakthrough; we are at the edge of collapse after 10 years of work,” Prof Sachs, who is a special advisor to the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, said.
He also chastised US Democrats and Republicans for their lack of support in global health and singled out President Obama for what he called his lack of leadership in not building on the successes of his predecessor, President George W. Bush
The Global Fund has so far approved 510 grants in 150 countries, including Ghana, and has disbursed $22 billion on those grants. This has allowed 3.2 million people to be put on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, 8.2 million with TB to be treated under directly observed treatment schedule (DOTS) and distributed 190 million insecticide treated nets (ITNs).
In an interview on how those developments were going to affect Ghana, the Director of Research and Development of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Abraham Hodgson, who also attended the meeting, acknowledged that funds from the Global Fund had helped in the success chalked up in the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria and there was the need to sustain and build on it.
However, he said the non-availability of funds would adversely affect the progress made in all spheres of the three diseases, leading to stagnation or reversal of progress achieved.
“We need to make a strong case for the decision to be reviewed and funds made available for the progress made to be sustained,” Dr Hodgson said.