My father once told me when I was a young girl that I was destined to do great things. His belief in my abilities and ambition is rooted deeply in the spirit of Malawians; resilient and determined for a better Malawi and a better Africa.
Today we’re at a cross- roads to test this spirit. For far too long, the scourge of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has devastated families and communities and slowed the economic growth of Africa. However, significant scientific advances and years of intervention experience have given us the tools we need to defeat these diseases. I believe that international support through critical funds, together with the determination of my compatriots, Malawi can be a model country for meeting global health targets and get on with the business of African driven global economic growth.
Yesterday in Brussels, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced an appeal to government and private sector donors for $15 billion for the next three years. While this appeal represents a substantial financial commitment during these times of economic austerity, it is a historical opportunity. A collective $15 billion commitment to the Global Fund would account for 85 percent of the international funding needed to capitalize on the progress we have made over the past decade and completely control these diseases once and for all. Just a decade ago no one could ever have imagined the finish line being so close.
The staggering progress we have made with the Global Fund and its partners has shown us what is possible for humankind when global solidarity, political will, modern science, and country ownership collide and save millions of lives. Defeating these diseases is a shared responsibility. African countries are doing their utmost to provide human and financial resources for the health of their people. But we need strong support of the Global Fund to succeed.
In 2000, just 50,000 people were receiving antiretroviral therapy in Africa. By 2011, it was 6 million. In Malawi, thanks to international support of Global Fund financed HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, we are now seeing the first generation of Malawians being born HIV free and a 10 percent overall decline in adult mortality.
But we must make no mistake about it. Our gains will be lost if we do not move forward to defeat these diseases. We can’t stop now. If we do, the long-term human and financial costs will be staggering. Advances made in slowing new HIV, TB and malaria infections will be reversed if proven treatment and prevention efforts stagnate. The consequences of not acting now will result in more devastating losses of life, rather than dramatic increases in life expectancy and quality of life for Africans.
Throughout my career, I have been confronted with people who have doubted my ability to achieve the dreams and ambitions distilled into my soul by my father. Today I am blessed to be the president of a country filled with people who share my desire for a better Malawi and a better Africa, but we cannot do it alone. Today I stand proudly next to the Global Fund, its partners, and my fellow Africans with a promise: a $15 billion commitment to the Global Fund from the international community is an investment that will be quantified by changing the course of history together, and a leap forward towards ending the three pandemics.
Guest post by Dr Alex Wodak, Former head, Drug and Alcohol Services at the St Vincent’s Hospital
The former British Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, who died this week, was universally regarded as a no-nonsense ‘conviction politician’.
Few know of her important role in the early adoption and vigorous implementation of a needle syringe programmes to control the spread of HIV in the United Kingdom. At that stage, in 1986, the Netherlands was the only country in the world to have started a similar policy. The discovery of the condition, now referred to as HIV/AIDS, was first announced to the world on 5 June 1981. It was clear very early on that this condition was a serious health, social and economic threat to the world but little was known about the nature and extent of this threat.
Mrs Thatcher accepted the recommendations to establish a national needle exchange programme to slow the spread of HIV among and from people who inject drugs. The recommendation was made by a UK committee established to develop an effective response to HIV. The UK needle exchange programme undoubtedly prevented many HIV infections and much needless suffering as well as saving many lives and many pounds. Mrs Thatcher’s decision influenced many other countries to adopt needle syringe programs. Australia’s first needle syringe programme was established on 12 November 1986 as an act of civil disobedience and prompted the then NSW Government to establish a state wide system. All other states and territories followed within two years.
Many assume that pragmatic drug policies are generally a product of left wing political parties and governments. This is not so. The experience of Mrs Thatcher in establishing a needle exchange programme in the UK in 1986 and President Nixon establishing a national methadone treatment programme in the USA in 1969 are examples of conservative politicians adopting pragmatic drug policies. Both were excellent decisions though still often criticised.
On 2 April 1985, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, convened a ‘Special Premier’s Conference’ (the ‘Drug Summit’) at which it was agreed by all 8 governments represented (the Commonwealth, six states, the Northern Territory) that ‘harm minimisation’ would henceforth be Australia’s official national drug policy. At the time, five of the governments were Labor while three – Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – were centre-right (National, Liberal and Country Liberal respectively). For many years, Australia’s response to HIV and drug policy has enjoyed support from all major parties. All nine Australian governments have continued to support harm minimisation since 1985 whatever the political hue of the party or parties forming government.
BRUSSELS – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria held a two-day conference with donors and other partners on how increased resources for the 2014-2016 period could dramatically alter the course of these three infectious diseases and bring them completely under control.
Delegates to the meeting saw a global needs assessment and heard presentations on new advances in science and implementation that can increase the impact of Global Fund investments to support partners fighting the three diseases and essentially remove them as threats to global health.
Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development and Cooperation for the European Union, which hosted the conference, called for more support from emerging countries and the private sector. French Development Minister Pascal Canfin, who also spoke, made a resounding call for an AIDS-free generation.
The conference was also told by health specialists that a big increase in impact could be achieved in many countries by focusing efforts on “hot spots” in countries where disease is most heavily concentrated, and by acting before diseases grow out of control.
“If we don’t seize this moment, we will be dealing with these diseases for generations,” said Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “These moments don’t come very often. We can achieve a historic change in the world and that is what we are on this planet to do.”
The Global Fund formulated a needs assessment for 2014-2016 showing that raising US$15 billion, when combined with funding from other sources, would have a transformative effect on the incidence and death rates of HIV, TB and malaria. The assessment was drawn up with technical partners at WHO, UNAIDS, Roll Back Malaria and the Stop TB partnership.
“We will need sustained commitments to the Global Fund – commitments which the European Commission is prepared to offer, despite the challenges we face in raising money in these testing times,” Mr Piebalgs told the conference, which ended on Wednesday.
But in order to persuade traditional donors to sustain their support for the Global Fund, emerging economies and the private sector need to bear a larger share of the cost of fighting disease, said Mr Piebalgs. “We need to look at reviving the initial idea of leveraging traditional with other contributions and vice-versa,” he said.
He also hailed a cultural shift from an emergency response to a more sustainable footing. “The medium-term goal is the integration of the response to these three diseases into existing national and international systems, particularly in sustainable, comprehensive and nationally owned strategies.”
The Global Fund recently launched a new funding model, which encourages and supports countries in integrating their HIV, TB and malaria investments into the overall national health strategies and strengthening their health systems.
The EU Commission has contributed US$1.48 billion to the Global Fund since its creation in 2002, making it the sixth largest donor to the organization.
The Global Fund and its partners estimate that together with other funding, including an estimated US$37 billion from domestic sources in implementing countries and US$24 billion from other international sources, a US$15 billion contribution to the Global Fund would allow the collective work to address nearly 90 percent of the global resource needs to fight the three diseases, estimated at a total of US$87 billion.
Forecasts presented to the conference showed that, with adequate funding, more than 18 million adults eligible for treatment could be on antiretroviral therapy by 2016, up from 8 million now; almost 6 million people could be saved from TB; and 196,000 more lives could be saved every year from malaria.
Collective efforts would also prevent more than one million new HIV infections each year, thereby saving billions of dollars in care and treatment costs in the long-term.
Rwanda, which has achieved universal access to HIV treatment was an example of what could be achieved with judicious use of resources for health programs, said Anita Asiimwe, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of public health. “The secret is to work when there is a great need.”
French Development Minister Pascal Canfin struck an optimistic note in an upbeat address to the conference, saying that the idea of an AIDS-free generation was a mere pipe dream when the Global Fund came into existence more than ten years ago. “We want this dream to become a reality,” he concluded.
Canfin also said it was a paradox that many of the Global Fund’s biggest financial backers faced unprecedented financial problems at a time when scientific progress was giving the world the means to control the three diseases.
Although World Tuberculosis Day was on Sunday, March 24, we didn’t want you to miss out on this unbelievable story!
Here in the Western world, we (thankfully) don’t have much exposure to tuberculosis, a devastating, preventable disease that we work so hard to reduce at ONE. So, when I had the opportunity to meet a tuberculosis survivor in Washington, D.C., I jumped at the chance – telling her story would be such a powerful way to build awareness around TB.
Mildred Fernando, a lovely young woman from The Philippines, shared her experience battling the disease at a RESULTS event last week. Mildred’s story of her remarkable ten-year battle with drug-resistant TB not only illustrates the true gravity of the disease but the absolute imperative of working toward its eradication.
Mildred was diagnosed with TB in 2001 at age 19, during her last semester of college. It was not, however, until three years later that the private physician administering her care issued a sputum test that revealed she had contracted extremely drug-resistant (XDR) TB.
Mildred’s father died in 2003 from multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB, meaning it was likely that her strain of TB was drug-resistant from the start. According to Mildred, “because private doctors are not that familiar with drug-resistant TB, the private doctors provided me with the first nine drugs, which are not that effective for drug-resistant TB.” After five years of failed treatment, Mildred’s doctor referred her to the Tropical Disease Foundation, a Global Fund-implementing partner, for the management of drug-resistant TB. At the time, however, access to the necessary medication was only available in the city.
Article by Gabrielle Brophy, World Vision
Papua New Guinea marked World Tuberculosis Day 2013 with events across the country.
Port Moresby’s walkathon saw hundreds of people walking through the streets of the city advocating for ‘Stop TB in my lifetime’. A number of dignitaries walked alongside the public including:
- Mr Powes Parkop, National Capital District Governor
- Her Excellency Ms Deborah Stokes, Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG
- Dr Geoff Clark, PNG Program Director for Health and HIV
- Mr James Gilling, Australia’s Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria
- Dr Curt von Boguslawski, World Vision PNG Country Director
- Dr Laura Gaurenti, World Health Organisation Maternal Child Health Advisor
At the conclusion of the walk, entertainment, TB awareness and formalities took place for attendees, including a keynote address from PNG Government Minister for Health, the Honourable Michael Malabag. Proceedings were broadcast on local radio and captured for the country’s TV news programs.
Corporate sponsors joined dignitaries at a corporate dinner to hear from the PNG Government’s Minister for Health among other National TB Program partners, on the successes of the program in the country and the way forward to ensure that TB is eradicated in the coming decades.
The theme for this year’s World TB Day, ‘Stop TB in my lifetime’, was a consistent message throughout the events. There was strong advocacy on the symptoms of TB and spreading the message that the disease is both curable and treatment is free in all healthcare facilities in the country.
The PNG National TB Program uses the WHO recommended DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course) strategy. One key feature of the DOTS strategy is the use of treatment supporters to significantly boost the cure rate among TB patients. Treatment supporters visit TB patients regularly to ensure they take their medication. The effective DOTS strategy is already being implemented nation-wide, across all 22 provinces in PNG.
The World TB Day events displayed the cohesion of partners, with increased government commitment and dedication by implementing organisations in the fight against TB. Strong partnership has been and will continue to be pivotal to see effective and increased awareness, detection and treatment of TB across PNG.
The success to date of TB detection, treatment and cure rate in PNG will only be strengthened with the greater commitment from the PNG Government and dedication of the National TB Program partners. PNG is set to see a continued reduction of the TB burden and is well on the way to achieving global standards for treatment success.
Global Health News
Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.