Agence France Presse
29 January 2002

Global fund against HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB declared operational

GENEVA,The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS and two other killer diseases on Tuesday launched a call for funding projects in countries hit hard by the illnesses, on its first official day in operation.

At the end of a two-day meeting in Geneva, the newly-appointed board of the independent fund revealed that it had thus far received 1.9 billion dollars in pledges, of which 700,000 million dollars has been earmarked to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tubercu
losis in 2002.

The seven industrialised countries, seven deve
loping and transition countries, non-governmental organisations, private foundations and corporations on the board said they sought a first round of projects that needed financial support.

"Today we are taking a major step forward, moving rapidly to get these resources to people that need them most," said Paul Ehmer, head of the G
lobal Fund's secretariat. "One of the important messages we want to get out today is that the fund, with the completion of this board meeting, I think we can declare, is operational," he added.

Ehmer said the G
lobal Fund was initially looking for specific local programmes to fight the diseases, preferably combining government and community efforts that had been planned but lacked cash to be carried out.

The proposals, which should be submitted by March 20, will be reviewed and approved at the next board meeting in April.

"It's great progress, it will be clearer once the first projects will be chosen in April we hope -- this was unimaginable a few years ago," French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner told journalists.

"This may be the first time that g
lobalisation has become a positive concept," he added.

The independent Fund was launched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in May 2001 and received the high-profile backing of a 100-million-dollar donation from Microsoft chief Bill Gates's foundation.

It is meant to be a public-private partnership aimed at stimulating the vast resources needed to fight the diseases.

Some six million deaths every year result from AIDS, TB or malaria, while at least 348 million people suffer from the diseases, mainly in deve
loping countries, according to fund organisers.

Annan has said the fund would need about 10 billion dollars a year.

Of the 1.9 billion dollars pledged so far, most has been promised by governments and the Gates Foundation, while private companies have come up with just over one million dollars.

"We haven't even seen the potential of the private sector," Ehmer said.

Ehmer said there had been "a
lot of discussion" during the meeting about private sector representation and funding.

There had been warnings that private companies would only start to come through with pledges once they saw the G
lobal Fund was up and running and having an impact, Ehmer added.

Private corporations are represented on the board by mining cong
lomerate Anglo American.

"As we speak now we have approximately 1.9 billion in pledges, not in cash in the banks, and this is far less than the anticipation of especially the communities affected," Milly Katana, who represents deve
loping country advocacy groups on the fund's board, told journalists.

The board also set out priorities for the fund during the meeting.

"There is a general agreement that there will be more funding available for HIV/AIDS than for the other conditions," Ehmer said.

He added that there was also backing for a balanced approach to both AIDS prevention and treatment.

"What the fund is recognising is that both of these kinds of programmes are going to be necessary and countries will come forward with proposals that will reflect that kind of a balance," Ehmer said.

"The arrival of this g
lobal fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria has come late, but we welcome it, and it has brought tremendous opportunities for turning round this very scandalous and shameful situation for mankind in the 21st century," said Ugandan health ministry official Francis Omaswa.

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