Short-sighted cuts: Reduced spending on disease will cost more later

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The across-the-board cuts under the sequester will undermine efficient programs, along with the inefficient. One unfortunate casualty is spending on global health efforts.

For this year, the proposed outlay for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria amounts to $1.65 billion, but the sequester will reduce that amount by more than $75 million. Worse, the budget introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, would cut U.S. spending on the Global Fund by another 7 percent.

Any cut to the fund -- the largest supporter of programs to fight those diseases -- is unacceptable. Since it started in 2002, the fund has saved millions of lives in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It has bolstered U.S. stature in the developing world and made the world safer and more stable. Moreover, every dollar the United States contributes to the fund is matched with $2 from other donors.

With another threat posed by strains of drug-resistant TB, support for the Global Fund should actually be increased. Usually treatable with inexpensive drugs, TB can, when treated inconsistently, develop resistance to these drugs. Treating the disease then costs up to 40 times as much -- up to $200,000 per person in America.

Health experts say that rates of drug-resistant TB are higher than expected. The World Health Organization projects more than 2 million new cases globally from 2011 to 2015, with only 10 percent of them properly treated.

The Global Fund provides about 90 percent of the international aid for controlling TB. More than $1.5 billion in added funding is needed for early and effective treatment.

In 1882 Dr. Robert Koch, a German scientist, discovered the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis. Today, the fight against TB requires a renewed commitment to the Global Fund.



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