Global Fund on AIDS Approves Massive Grants

Under a motto of "Raise it, Spend it, Prove it," the new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria on Friday awarded grants of US$866 million to 60 countries for grassroots projects to save lives and limit suffering.

The grants will ensure that an additional 500,000 people in developing nations are treated with anti-AIDS medicines, a six-fold increase from current levels. They will be used to provide care and support to 500,000 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children, mainly in Africa, and will also beef up prevention campaigns, according to the fund's organizers.

With the new funds, 30 million African families will now be protected from malaria with treated mosquito nets, making the Fund the biggest purchaser of nets on the continent, it said. Money will also be channeled to buy more than 4 million courses of new medicines which are more effective against resistant strains of malaria than current remedies.

A statement from the fund said the new grants will also help treat 2 million people with tuberculosis over the next five years — "without these services, most of these people would either continue infecting others with the disease or die."

AIDS, TB and malaria — the three big diseases of poverty — kill an estimated 10 people per minute, or 15,000 per day.

Richard Feachem, the fund's executive director, praised the progress.

"Not only is the Global Fund encouraging the most effective players to work together to get the job done on the front lines of the epidemics, it is also helping donors coordinate efforts, reduce waste and focus on achieving results," said Feachem at the end of a three-day meeting of the fund's board.

The board elected U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson as its president.

The fund came into life one year ago upon the initiative of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, with the U.S. government as its largest single donor. Individual organizations have to apply for grants, giving details on how the money will be spent. The aim is to offer avoid red tape than bogs down many government health programs_ although it has suffered some teething problems as a result of bureaucratic wrangling.

Initial grants were awarded last April. Together with the money approved Friday, the fund hopes to hand out $1.5 billion this year. But after that the coffers will be empty, said Feachem, calling for an additional $6.3 billion over the next two years.

"Our focus in 2003 must be on substantial and measured progress in the three domains which comprise the totality of the Global Fund: Raise it, Spend it, Prove it."

Of grants announced so far, Ethiopia was awarded US$93.3 million over two years for programs to combat AIDS and malaria. Mozambique will receive up to US$54 million for its proposals to involve community and government initiatives in addressing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Namibia will get some US$26 million to support 150,000 orphans and children affected by HIV.

The fund also awarded malaria grants totaling up to US$27 million over two years to Sudan, after a joint request was submitted by the Sudanese government and southern rebels.

Three states in India received the largest single country grant within Asia, some US$38.8 million for proposals for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS over two years.