- Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
In January I visited a village hospital two hours’ drive from Benin’s capital, Cotonou. Along with Michel Kazatchkine, the Global Fund’s executive director, we were joined by Melinda Gates. Among the people we met was Françoise Ade, a woman whose husband abandoned her when he found out she was HIV-positive. Françoise’s husband later died of Aids-related causes, but her son Gabriel was born free of HIV because Françoise was able to follow a course of antiretroviral therapy for free.
Françoise and almost 1 million other mothers like her, who are living with HIV, have over the past few years been given the chance to have healthy babies because of a dramatic intensification of a global effort to turn the tide against Aids.
An important milestone in that effort was the creation in 2002 of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – three global epidemics that claim millions of lives every year. A programme supported by the Global Fund enabled Françoise to give birth to a healthy son.
The establishment of the Global Fund followed the launch in 2000 of the millennium development goals by the United Nations, setting ambitious targets to eradicate poverty’s root causes. With over $19bn (£12bn) committed in 140 countries, the Global Fund has rapidly become the world’s major multilateral source of finance for nationally owned health programmes, supported by development partners, working to fight these diseases.
More than 5 million people have gained access to Aids treatment in the developing world in the last 10 years. Aids mortality has decreased in most high-burden countries and the number of new HIV infections is also decreasing in most parts of the world.
But the progress reaches beyond Aids. Ten years ago, malaria was a neglected disease; today, at least 10 of the African countries hardest hit by malaria have reported declines in new malaria cases and a fall in malaria mortality of 50 to 80% . TB is also declining worldwide.
Today is a defining moment in the response to Aids, TB and malaria. Early next month, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will host a special meeting of donor countries to make financial pledges to the Global Fund for the next three years. If this meeting results in enough funding to support the necessary expansion of lifesaving programmes, extraordinary successes are within reach.
At the summit for the millennium development goals in New York, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a major financial pledge to the Global Fund for the next three years, 2011-2013. France is the largest donor to the Global Fund after the United States, and we are proud of these two nations’ joint leadership in this fight. We hope that other donor countries will follow suit with generous pledges.
With the necessary funding, by 2015 we could achieve further drops in TB and malaria. We could prevent millions more new HIV infections, dramatically reduce deaths from Aids, and virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child, giving hope to millions more like Françoise and her son Gabriel.
We are thrilled that Françoise’s experience is within reach for all women, anywhere in the world – that’s why we started a campaign called Born HIV Free, to let people everywhere know that the virtual elimination of the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children is realistic by 2015, and to make leaders aware of the impact of their support for the Global Fund in achieving that goal.
It is especially important now, in times of economic hard times, that we demonstrate the global solidarity required to ensure that the Global Fund can continue its lifesaving work. We have before us a historic opportunity in global health. The lesson of the past 10 years is that together we can do great things.