JOHANNESBURG, 10 May 2012 (PlusNews) - The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria has announced that it will have US$1.6 billion more to invest in life-saving programmes between 2012 and 2014.
The new funds are a result of "strategic decisions made by the Board, freeing up funds that can be invested in countries where there is the most pressing demand", a statement by the Fund said. Organizational changes have brought "improved financial supervision and overall efficiency"; for instance, the Fund has cut its staff by 7.4 percent. In addition, it has received new donations recently, including $750 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $340 million from Japan.
Poor funding in 2011 forced the Fund to make an unprecedented decision to cancel its 11th round of funding, raising fears that gains made in the fight HIV would be lost. Some $616 million in grant requests is now being considered by the Technical Review Panel.
UNAIDS said the money would allow countries and communities to take the lead in determining their priorities to meet the targets of the 2011 UN Political Declaration on AIDS.
"This ushers in a new era for the Global Fund and I am pleased to see that it is opening the door to new partnerships," Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement. "The Global Fund must keep firmly focused on country successes, and continue to leverage resources to ensure that countries can reach their goals and that more lives are saved."
The international NGO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), welcomed the new money but cautioned that the Fund must stick to country-driven, needs-driven and demand-driven programming. Sharonann Lynch, HIV policy advisor to MSF International, urged the Global Fund, which will have its 26th board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on 10 and 11 May, to adhere to its founding principle of saving lives.
"The Global Fund will deliberate on whether it can afford to open a new funding window this year . MSF demands that it does so as quickly as possible - we can't afford to waste more time and squander the opportunity to save lives and prevent new infections," Lynch told IRIN/PlusNews.
"The funding window must be made available to all poor countries affected - the fear is that rushed reform within the Global Fund could lead to new strategies where it cherry-picks countries and interventions under the guise of poor funding."
The Global Fund is one of the largest contributors to the fight against HIV, TB and malaria, and by 2010 was disbursing $3.5 billion annually. It has supported about 40 percent of all HIV treatment in developing countries and much of the care in middle-income nations such as China and India. More than two-thirds of the world’s malaria prevention and treatment, and three-quarters of all tuberculosis efforts, now depend on it.
"Countries that implement our grants are saving more and more people, but demand for services is still enormous," said Gabriel Jaramillo, who became General Manager of the Global Fund in February 2012. "With more money, we can save more lives."