GENEVA − The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria met virtually for the 44th Board meeting this week to discuss the organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, development of the next Global Fund strategy and progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria.
Held in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than 50 million cases and 1.27 million deaths, the Board commended the Global Fund’s rapid and thorough response to the COVID-19 crisis while at the same time protecting progress on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, stressed the need to increase funding and expand the response to fight COVID-19, reinforce systems for health, and get back on track to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030.
“At the moment, COVID-19 is killing roughly the same number of people every week as HIV, TB and malaria combined,” said Executive Director Peter Sands in his opening address to the Board. “We did, I think, avert the immediate worst-case scenario of impact on HIV, TB and malaria. But we should have no illusions: There has been a significant impact, and over time the failure to contain COVID-19, and its financial and economic consequences, will further erode our ability to fight the three diseases. There is no scenario that we make the progress we want against HIV, TB and malaria while COVID-19 is unchecked.”
The Global Fund is playing a leading role in the global response to the pandemic and is a founding partner of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration of organizations and governments working to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines – once available.
Roslyn Morauta, Vice-Chair of the Board, echoed the views of other Board members in stressing the importance of community involvement and leadership in the fight against COVID-19 and the role the Global Fund has played to support civil society engagement in the ACT-Accelerator coalition.
“Just as we have learned in the fights against HIV, TB and malaria, communities are critical in the fight against infectious disease – in making sure vulnerable populations aren’t left behind, that local solutions are prioritized, and that community systems like community health workers are a core part of the response,” she said.
In discussions on the upcoming strategy, there was broad consensus that a key issue is the Global Fund’s role in global health security. The Global Fund is the largest investor in grants to build resilient and sustainable systems for health; those investments – in tools, systems, health workers and laboratory resources – are now underpinning the responses to COVID-19 in many low- and middle-income countries, and will be equally critical in helping countries face the next pandemic.
Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Chair of the Board, also stressed the need for the next strategy to focus on how to step up our efforts to get back on track to ending HIV, TB and malaria by 2030.
“In a context of economic downturn and challenges for health financing, it is all the more important to leverage the Global Fund catalytic role and make sure that our future strategy addresses key challenges including in incidence reduction across the three diseases while building on the many lessons from the COVID-19 response,” said Kaberuka.
The Board also discussed pressing resource mobilization needs for the COVID-19 Response and commended the more than US$200 million in additional funds already committed by public and private donors. Showing commitment to fighting COVID-19 and getting back on a trajectory needed to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030, the Board also approved operational plans for 2021, including a slightly increased operating expenses budget.