Global Fund, global good
No question about leadership in the fight against disease
Many of us felt a sense of pride and admiration in scenes of the USS George Washington off the Philippine city of Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan. Here was the power and commitment of the United States in the wake of utter disaster, lending a hand to those in need simply because they needed it. It wasn't long before Alaska Guard units joined that work.
If anyone had to ask why, the answer was simple: This is what we do -- and we have the means to do it very well.
So it was recently with the U.S. decision to commit $5 billion more to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Global Fund has drawn the commitment of $20 billion from nations around the world since it began in 2002. Not all of that has been disbursed, but the fund has proven the worth of its work, much of it in sub-Saharan Africa, in staggering numbers:
• 40 percent decline in TB deaths, primarily due to improved detection and treatment.
• 33 percent drop in deaths from malaria, primarily due to the distribution of 340 million insecticide treated bed nets to keep mosquitoes at bay -- a gift that now protects 53 percent of African household, up from 3 percent just 13 years ago.
• 7.5 million people now treated for HIV/AIDS, compared to just 50,000 a little more than a decade ago. Further, early detection and treatment not only has helped patients, but antiretroviral therapy also can block the transmission of the disease to sexual partners and from pregnant women to their children.
Those are just a few of the numbers. Last month in Anchorage, Joyce Kamwana of Malawi provided one of the faces. Kamwana lost her husband to the disease in 1991, and lost her job to the stigma of the disease. For 15 years she was unable to afford treatment, and her weakened immune system left her stricken twice with TB. When a Global Fund grant allowed Malawi to offer treatment, Kamwana began a road to recovery.
She was worked in her country's ministries of education, agriculture and nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and in November came to Anchorage as part of a nationwide tour to build support for the fund. The woman of the tropics didn't take off her coat in the conference room and laughed at the chill she felt. But she made a compelling case.
Malawi is far away. Kamwana was not. She brought her country and her cause closer, and her survival -- beating the odds has allowed her to live to see her grandchildren -- testified to the value of the fund.
This week President Obama committed $1 for every $2 the rest of the world pledges, up to $5 billion, over the next three years. That's a lot, but it leverages so much life -- about 100,000 lives saved a month, according to the fund.
Congress should make good on the pledge , and our delegation of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young should be leaders in the appropriation.
Support for the Global Fund is one of those constant threads of good in the work of the United States in the world. Let's keep it strong.
BOTTOM LINE: United States does good work in leading way for Global Fund.