On Saturday, Theresa May announced the UK’s continued commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Pledging to invest up to £1.4 billion over the next three years, it’s an investment that will help save the lives of 2 million people around the world.
Over the last few months, we’ve worked with friends and allies in the UK and across the world and sent a seemingly endless list of letters, hosted private briefings, met with civil servants, organised receptions with ministers and celebrity guests, tabled parliamentary questions galore and briefed MPs ahead each and every debate in parliament.
We do all this because we know how much it matters. Since being founded, the Global Fund has helped save 27 million lives and fundamentally transformed the fight against the three diseases. For TB, almost three quarters of all international financing comes through the Global Fund, putting it at the heart of global efforts to end TB by 2030. The UK’s commitment alone will provide TB treatment and care for 2.3 million people, including 120,000 with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
Earlier this year, I travelled to Ethiopia with a group of UK parliamentarians to learn more about the TB response there. We met with incredible doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to find and treat people with TB. The drugs at their disposal aren’t effective enough. They also don’t have the resources to offer the nutritional and psychosocial support they know their patients need. We also saw the incredible improvements that are possible with Global Fund support.
We also visited a new distribution centre in Adama, where the Global Fund is working with partners to improve the way Ethiopia buys and distributes drugs, vaccines and other health products, with far reaching consequences for the entire health system.
But frankly, it simply isn’t enough. The fact that almost a third of all people that fall ill with TB each year are left undiagnosed and untreated is the tip of the iceberg. Every person who slips through the cracks is a tragedy, and there are millions of them each year.
The Global Fund will need to raise at least US $14 billion ahead of its replenishment conference this October. That’s a 15% increase on its previous budget, and even then we know it’s probably cutting it fine. Without it, we have no hope of delivering on the targets set at the UN High-Level Meeting on TB, or indeed the Sustainable Development Goals more broadly.
That’s why we’re so excited by Theresa May’s announcement. Not only did the UK truly “step up the fight” by pledging exactly what we asked them to, they did so months in advance of the replenishment conference. That leadership throws down the gauntlet to other world leaders, and brings us one huge step closer to successfully hitting that US $14 billion target.
And so, while we know that the Global Fund replenishment is just one in a number of replenishments we’ll need to campaign on in the coming months, we’re thrilled with this commitment and what it means. Tired, but very happy.