Health activists have reacted strongly to the decision of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to cancel new grants to the three pandemics until 2014. The decision was taken at the 25th Board of the Global Fund as a consequence of donor governments’ failure to fulfil their financial pledges to the Global Fund.

This will impact funding of AIDS, TB and Malaria programs in over 140 countries immediately. The Global Fund cancelled applications for the 11tth round of funding that would have provided money for 2011-2013. The Board also announced it did not have the cash on hand to fund some previously approved grants. This financing shortfall has created an emergency in the international fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria—the world’s three leading infectious disease killers.

The Global Fund is the world’s largest international financier of programs to treat TB and Malaria, and the second largest for HIV/AIDS. January 2012 is the 10th anniversary of the Fund’s existence. So far India has been allocated just over a billion dollars in grants (Total: US$ 1,064,763,567, out of which US$ 213,106,797 is for Tuberculosis, the rest divided between Malaria and HIV/AIDS.) A total of US$ 658,768,825 has already been disbursed between 2004 and 2010 to Indian grantees.

“This step takes place even as the recently released UNAIDS World AIDS Report 2011 outlined steadily declining rates of HIV infections. In India new HIV infections fell by 56 per cent between 1996 and 2010,’’ said John Mathai, Country Director, Global Health Advocates India (an NGO that works towards the formulation and implementation of effective public policies to fight disease and ill health in India). He said this funding gap would affect TB programs in Orissa, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh where large successful programs have been run using this mechanism, and will cause the National TB Control effort to suffer, along with the HIV/AIDS and Malaria programs.

In countries fighting these diseases around the world, including India, governments and civic organizations were well into the process of developing proposals to submit to the Global Fund for its upcoming round of grant funding. Proposals were to be reviewed and approved in 2012. The cancellation of new grant-making until 2014 will effectively halt programs that provide basic services to treat AIDS, TB, and malaria in countries most ravaged by the diseases.

The MSF has also called upon the Global Fund and donors to immediately raise the resources necessary for the minimum lifeline the Fund has extended to countries otherwise facing disruptions this year, as well as providing a new regular funding opportunity.

“The dramatic resource shortfall comes at a time when the latest HIV science shows that HIV treatment itself not only saves lives, but is also a critical form of preventing the spread of the virus, and governments are making overtures that there could be an end to the AIDS epidemic,’’ a statement issued here said.

“There’s a shocking incongruence between both the new HIV science and political promises on one hand, and the funding reality that is now hitting the ground on the other,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign. All governments must chip in to the effort to curb HIV, but especially those with the capacity to really make a difference must urgently step up and support a new funding opportunity for countries by the Global Fund, he added.

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