38 million lives saved through the Global Fund partnership, but without emergency U.S. funding, COVID-19 could undo decades of progress
Washington, DC (September 14) – The Global Fund partnership has saved 38 million lives since 2002, including 6 million in 2019 alone, according to its annual results report, released today. That represents a 20 percent increase in the number of lives saved compared to the previous year.
However, the new report warns that COVID-19 now threatens to undo decades of progress on AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. Without support for the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response Mechanism, results for 2020 could be in stark contrast to the achievements of 2019.
Since March, the Global Fund has played a critical role in the international COVID-19 response, working with partners to purchase and supply COVID-19 tests; strengthen local health systems so they can test, track and treat COVID-19 now and they are prepared to roll out treatments and vaccines once available; provide health workers with personal protective equipment; and adapt critical HIV, TB and malaria programs so they can safely operate during COVID-19.
“Over the last 15 years, the United States has led the fight to end the world’s deadliest infectious diseases and its investments in the Global Fund partnership have achieved remarkable results, saving 38 million lives around the world,” said Chris Collins, President and CEO, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “But unless we act now, we will be squandering billions of dollars that, until COVID-19 hit, had turned the tide on AIDS, TB and malaria. Congress must step up and provide $4 billion over two years to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response Mechanism. This critical U.S investment will ensure that the poorest communities around the world can not only test and treat COVID-19, but also continue operating lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs.”
The report highlights how COVID-19 is disrupting HIV, TB and malaria services around the world, noting a 50 percent decrease in the volume of HIV testing in some locations and an up to 75 percent decline in new TB case notifications in some locations.
According to the report, medical and laboratory staff fighting HIV, TB and malaria are being reassigned to fight COVID-19, laboratory workers are contracting COVID-19, many health workers are reluctant to treat people suspected of having TB or malaria, because of similar initial symptoms to COVID-19, and many patients avoid seeking services for HIV, TB or malaria because of fear of COVID-19 infection.
The report also highlights innovative ways Global Fund grantees are adapting their HIV, TB and malaria programming. For example, couriers are delivering lifesaving antiretroviral medications door to door in the Ukraine, and the Global Fund is purchasing special testing cartridges to help countries use GeneXpert machines, previously used to rapidly diagnose TB, to also test for COVID-19.
“We are at a crossroads,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Friends’ Board Chair and CEO at Rabin Martin, a global health strategy consulting firm. “Today’s report makes clear that, with U.S. leadership in effective, proven partnerships like the Global Fund, we have made remarkable progress against the world’s deadliest epidemics. With swift U.S. leadership, we have the chance now to help low- and middle-income countries safeguard decades of gains against AIDS, TB and malaria while fighting COVID-19. Or we can see progress against AIDS, TB and malaria set back decades, taking the lives of a whole generation again.”
For more on the impact of COVID-19 on AIDS, TB and malaria, please see Friends’ dedicated webpage.