In 2002, in an act of extraordinary global solidarity and leadership, the world came together to create the Global Fund to fight what were then the deadliest pandemics confronting humanity: HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.
Over the 20 years that followed, this unique partnership has invested more than US$53 billion, saving 44 million lives and reducing the combined death rate from the three diseases by more than half in the countries in which the Global Fund invests.
Behind these huge numbers lie a multitude of individual human stories. The 44 million people whose lives have been saved include parents who care for their children, employers and workers that build thriving economies, neighbors and friends that contribute to their communities. They are children who have survived malaria or have been protected from HIV and are now young adults. They are community leaders who strive every day to make the lives of people in their communities better, healthier, and longer. Every life saved and every infection averted has a multiplier effect.
In 2022, we need another such moment of global solidarity and leadership. COVID-19 continues to cause huge loss of life, human suffering and economic and social disruption across the world. Hard-won gains against HIV, TB and malaria are being reversed, with devastating consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. The entire United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda is now at risk, as inequities deepen, poverty spirals and social and political tensions grow.
This is the moment for the world to recommit to protect everyone from the deadliest infectious diseases. That means protecting people across the world, whoever they are and wherever they live, from the earlier pandemics we have yet to defeat – HIV, TB and malaria; the pandemic running rampant right now – COVID-19; and future pandemics we have yet to see but know will come.
Protecting the world from such pandemics is not an impossible dream. With science, money and leadership, we have proven we can fight and beat even the most formidable infectious disease threats. Yet neither will it be easy. Since no one is safe from infectious diseases until everyone is safe, protecting us all from pandemics will take a truly global effort. Because preventing, detecting and responding to pandemics requires much more comprehensive and effective systems and capacities, we need to step up investment in the critical components of health systems and tackle barriers to access. The communities most affected by pandemics, particularly those most marginalized, must be at the center, voicing their needs and designing responses that truly leave no one behind.
Climate change and environmental damage make this all the more urgent. Climate change will affect the epidemiology of existing diseases and facilitate the emergence of new diseases. Changes in rainfall, temperature and humidity are already shifting malaria transmission into new areas. Climate change will also alter TB and HIV through, for example, the forced displacement or migration of vulnerable populations and increased economic insecurity. Moreover, climate change and other environmental pressures will also change the dynamics of zoonotic spillover, the process by which diseases affecting animals transition to humans. Since three-quarters of new disease threats originate in animals, any increase in zoonotic spillover will increase the probability of new pandemic threats.
The Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment is the world’s opportunity to rise to the challenge and take bold action. We can turbocharge progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria, regaining ground lost during the pandemic and getting back on track toward finally ending these three pandemics by 2030. We can also deliver a step change in pandemic preparedness, strengthening the overall resilience of systems for health by investing in their capacities to prevent, detect and respond to new health threats. By taking an integrated approach to the pursuit of these two complementary objectives, we can maximize the impact of every dollar.