Global good: The U.S. must lead on fighting disease

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The world’s largest funding source for fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria needs $15 billion over the next three years to control these pandemics. Investment in the Global Fund will save not only millions of lives, but also tens of billions of dollars in treatment costs.

At a meeting Tuesday in Washington, the Global Fund will ask for pledges totaling $15 million over the next three years, to save 6 million lives with vaccines and low-cost treatment and prevention.

Since its founding in 2002, the Global Fund has saved 8 million lives, but the fight against these diseases has reached a tipping point. With recent advances in science, medicine and data collection, the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria can become, by 2016, a manageable health problem.

But that can happen only with U.S. leadership. Historically, the United States has chipped in one-third of the Global Fund’s resources, which then leverage commitments from other donor nations and private sources, such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Japan and the Gates Foundation.

To reach the Global Fund’s goal, the United States needs to pledge $5 billion over three years. With Global Fund aid, countries have developed programs and doubled, over the past five years, the number of HIV-infected people in treatment to nearly 10 million. Anti-retroviral therapy reduces transmission risks by 96 percent.

Over the past decade, the Global Fund has supported more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries. Rural health workers supported by the Global Fund have also spotted other ailments, including pneumonia and child malnutrition, improving the prospects of future generations.

The United States spends relatively little — less than 1 percent of its budget — on global humanitarian aid. The thought of millions of people dying from preventable diseases should prod this nation, and others, to act.

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