fund on AIDS, tuberculosis,
and malaria holds first board meeting
At the first meeting of its board of directors
on Jan 28-29, the Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis,
and Malaria approved a call for grant requests from
countries worst hit by the three diseases, which claimed
an estimated six million lives last year.
Paul Ehmer, team leader of the fund's
secretariat, said governments and their health partners
had 4-6 weeks to submit applications to a panel of technical
experts. The board of directors hoped to approve projects
at its next meeting in New York in April, clearing the
way for the first round of disbursements to be made
as early as June.
On the eve of the Geneva meeting, the
fund was boosted by the promise of an additional US$200
million from the USA for 2003, in addition to the $300
million already committed. The fund now has $1·9 billion,
with payments due to be spread over several years.
Uganda's former Minister of Health, Chrispus
Kiyonga was elected president. Francis Omaswa, Director-General
of Health Services at Uganda's ministry of health, said
the resources were sorely needed in countries like his
own where average life expectancy has fallen to about
"The fund has come late, but it has come,
and we welcome it. It has tremendous opportunities for
turning around this very scandalous and shameful situation
for mankind", Omaswa said.
"Every minute, ten people die of HIV/AIDS,
tuberculosis, and malaria. Every day, 15 000 people
die", he said, commenting that the daily toll in developing
countries far outstripped the tragedy of the Sept 11
suicide attacks and that the deaths from these diseases
were largely preventable.
Ehmer--on secondment from his post as
deputy director of the Office of Health and Nutrition
at USAID-- said there was consensus that the greater
share of the budget should be devoted to HIV/AIDS, especially
in Africa. All programmes must meet strict criteria
and yield clear, measurable, and long-term results.
Priority would go to projects which were
already planned but not implemented because of lack
of resources, and there would be a balance between prevention,
treatment, care, and support.
Ehmer played down differences within the
18-member board. This was after French Health Minister
Bernard Kouchner accused Britain, in particular, of
concentrating on prevention at the expense of treatment.
But at a concluding press conference, Kouchner was upbeat,
saying that the fund was a rare positive aspect of globalisation
and would have been "unimaginable" even a few years
ago. "We still have everything to do, but at least there
is now hope", said Kouchner.