29 janvier 2002
Amid high hopes and frustrations,
fund on AIDS/TB holds first meeting
By Clare Nullis
A special fund of nearly dlrs 2 billion to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has moved one step closer to helping victims of the three diseases,
which kill an estimated six million people a year.
The board of directors of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Tuesday it was ready to
invite requests for grants from countries ravaged by the epidemics.
Governments will have until the end of March to submit detailed
proposals of health projects, which will then be considered
The idea of a fund to tackle the three big diseases - the
brainchild of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan - was agreed to last July.
If all goes well, payments should start by June, said the
fund's team leader, Paul Ehmer.
"We still have everything to do, but at least there is
now hope," French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner
said after the first meeting of the board of directors.
"We need hope. The sick need hope. Hope is the beginning
So far, dlrs 1.9 billion has been
pledged to the fund, of which dlrs
700 million will likely be distributed this year and the rest
later. The United States is the biggest single donor, having already
given dlrs 200 million and promised
an additional dlrs 200 million next year. European countries such as Italy and Britain have also made sizable offers. The Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation is the top private donor, having
pledged dlrs 100 million.
The demands are enormous.
"HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria kill 10 people every minute.
Everyday 15,000 people die," said Francis Omaswa,
Uganda's director-general of health services. "When
those planes rammed the twin towers of the World Trade center,
it caused a lot of concern around the world for the victims....
But here we are talking about 15,000 people a day."
"These three diseases are threatening the social, economic
and political security of the world, especially developing countries," said Milly Katana, a Ugandan health activist who is afflicted
with HIV and has recurring bouts of malaria every two months
Initial funding priority will be given to projects already
in the planning stage but that weren't implemented because
of lack of resources, said Ehmer.
France, for instance, has pioneered hospital twinning
schemes to share expertise and equipment with selected medical
institutions in developing countries such as Senegal and Cambodia. Kouchner said he
hoped these would be able to benefit from the fund.
Ehmer said there would be a balance
between prevention and treatment programs. Some countries,
such as Britain, have said emphasis should be placed on prevention.
France has insisted on the need for treatment - and
thus the provision of cut-price antiretroviral treatment and
cheap generic drugs.
Another controversial issue was private company representation
on the 18-member board of directors, responsible for approving
distribution of the money. In the end, it was agreed that
two private companies - the Gates Foundation and mining giant
Anglo-American - should be represented on the board, alongside two non-governmental organizations from
Germany and Uganda.
The United States, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Sweden and
the European Commission have seats, as do China, Brazil, Nigeria,
Pakistan, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine and one as yet unnamed
In order to minimize bureaucratic delays and maximize flexibility,
the fund is outside the U.N. system - although its managers
will work closely with the World Health Organization and
Omaswa said the fund would provide
vital help to programs in countries like Uganda, which has one of Africa's most successful anti-AIDS campaigns but
which has seen average life expectancy cut to 42 years because
of the disease.
"I am 50 years plus," he said. "I know what
it was like when I was a young boy. It is worse now."