Since 1981, the AIDS epidemic has killed 35 million people, and more than a million people still die an AIDS-related death each year. As rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis continue to rise and malaria spreads northward, fighting these three epidemics here at home and abroad is as important as ever.
Leading the fight is a remarkably successful international partnership — the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
The Global Fund has saved 27 million lives since its founding in 2002. President George W. Bush demonstrated strong U.S. leadership fighting these diseases by providing a full one-third of Global Fund resources from the beginning.
Bush’s commitment was ongoing as he displayed a red ribbon on the North Portico of the White House in honor of World AIDS Day and continued to promote aggressive funding to end these epidemics. Following our lead, dozens of other countries have stepped up their contributions over the past 17 years.
A few weeks ago, Loyce Maturu traveled from Zimbabwe to visit Colorado as an advocate for the Global Fund. Herself a survivor of HIV and tuberculosis, the Global Fund saved her life by providing access to the medications she needed.
As she met with media and civic groups in Denver and Colorado Springs, Maturu shared the heartbreak of losing her mother and brother to these diseases in the same week, and told of her difficult road back to health.
Now a healthy young adult, she mentors others and advocates globally in an effort to end these diseases.
Every three years, the Global Fund hosts a replenishment conference to build on its success.
Over the next three years, the Global Fund will implement a plan to save an additional 16 million lives, requiring an investment of $14 billion to fulfill this mission. In October, representatives from over 128 countries will meet in France to replenish the fund. As each country defines its financial commitment, U.S. leadership is critical to continued progress against these diseases, each of which is also present in the United States.
Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear whether the Trump administration will send someone. President Donald Trump said in his 2019 State of the Union Address that “Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond,” but his proposed budget would cut funding for the Global Fund, putting us on a path to lose the heard-earned progress we’ve made and creating even more expensive problems to address later.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is in a unique position to influence the president on this issue. By serving on that committee, the senator has assumed responsibility for making sure the United States maintains its Global Fund commitments, keeping with the original vision of former President Bush.
As Sen. Gardner’s constituents, it’s our responsibility to make sure the senator knows that we expect the United States to remain a leader in fighting these diseases by continuing to provide one-third of the Global Fund’s resources. The situation requires no less.
When the U.S. shows up, other countries do the same, and people get well. When a country’s citizens are healthy, economic development occurs naturally. With economic stability, international peace is possible.
Already countries who began as recipients of Global Fund investment have seen such success that they’ve become donors to the fund.
Maintaining U.S. support of the Global Fund is a wise investment with impressive returns.
Christie Renner is a researcher living in Boulder.