THE GLOBAL FUND AND COVID-19

The Global Fund is a public-private partnership committed to accelerating the end of the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics. It invests more than $4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries.

REPURPOSING GRANTS TO FUND IMMEDIATE COVID-19 NEEDS

COVID-19 poses a serious threat to vulnerable communities and systems around the world.

Immunocompromised people — such as those with tuberculosis and people living with HIV and not yet taking medication — are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. Parents with young children with possible malaria infections may be scared to take them to clinics or hospitals if there is a risk of contracting COVID-19.

The virus threatens to derail progress on HIV, TB and malaria through disruption not only to treatment or other interventions, but also to supply chains of critical medicines and medical supplies. Experience from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa suggests that unless mitigating actions are taken, additional deaths from existing diseases such as malaria could be at least as high as those from the outbreak itself.

That’s why the Global Fund is encouraging countries to redeploy underutilized assets, repurpose grant savings and, in exceptional cases, reprogram up to 5 percent of funding from existing grants to fight COVID-19. Because of the Global Fund’s unique grant-making capabilities, it can quickly deploy resources on the ground to respond to emerging threats. So far, $500 million is available from the Global Fund to “protect and treat vulnerable communities around the world.”

The reprogramed resources can go towards epidemic preparedness assessments, laboratory testing, sample transportation, surveillance infrastructure, infection control in health facilities, and public information campaigns among other activities. Particular attention should be given to health worker protection, communication with affected communities, maintenance of essential services, supply chain coordination, early replenishment of stocks, disinfection of assets and waste management.

To date, 41 countries and two multi-country grants are using Global Fund resources from grant savings to fight COVID-19.

STRENGTHENING HEALTH SYSTEMS

Strong health systems are critical to help countries respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure people continue to receive quality care for existing life-threatening diseases including HIV, TB and malaria. Strong health systems reinforce health security for the local population and globally.

The Global Fund invests more than $1 billion per year in health systems to improve procurement and supply chains, strengthen diagnostics and surveillance capacities, strengthen data systems and data use, train qualified health care workers, build stronger community responses and systems and promote the delivery of integrated health services.

The Global Fund was investing in health systems long before the COVID-19 outbreak, and it will continue to do so for years to come as a critical part of its mission to end HIV, TB and malaria. As world leaders seek to prevent future pandemics, they should invest in global health security through the Global Fund.