Since 2000, France has been a driving force in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria — diseases that together kill more than 5 million people annually despite being treatable and preventable. This year, the country has a chance to prove it is still committed to ending the three deadly diseases.
Civil society organizations are urging France to pledge $1.685 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria this year — a 30% increase from its previous contribution in 2020. Such a pledge would maintain France’s decades-long reputation as a leader in global health research and activism.
France’s History With Tackling AIDS, TB, and Malaria
France has been at the forefront of the fight against AIDS since it was first discovered. In fact, it was French professors Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier who first identified the retrovirus responsible for AIDS at the Institut Pasteur in 1983. They went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this in 2008.
From there, the country would continue to make strides.
“To fight AIDS, TB, and malaria, France has clearly chosen the multilateral approach,” Stéphanie Tchiombiano, coordinator of the French think tank Santé mondiale 2030, told Global Citizen. “It was very involved in the creation of the Global Fund in 2002, and then, four years later, in the creation of Unitaid.”
France, along with other governments including the US and the UK, the private sector, civil society, and citizen activists, founded the Global Fund 20 years ago. The fund’s aim is to pool the world’s resources to invest in strategic programs to end AIDS, TB, and malaria.
Two decades since its creation, this international financing and partnership organization has helped save 44 million lives. In 2020 alone, the fund put nearly 22 million people on antiretroviral therapy for HIV, treated nearly 5 million people for TB, and distributed 188 million mosquito nets to protect children and families from malaria.
France played a decisive role in the creation of the Global Fund through its political support, which has “never wavered,” Tchiombiano said. After the fund’s creation, the country continued to bolster its commitment by participating in the fund’s governance. A French representative has always held a seat on the board and France’s Dr. Michel Kazatchkine served as the fund’s executive director from 2007 to 2012.
France also stands out for its financial contributions. It has committed €5.81 billion to the Global Fund to date, earning the country the titles of largest European donor and second-largest public donor. In 2019, France hosted the fund’s sixth replenishment in Lyon — a conference held every three years to secure new commitments from donors — and played a crucial role in ensuring that the fund met its replenishment target, especially thanks to the personal leadership of President Macron (who will also have to decide what France’s contribution will be this year).
Back in 2019, France pledged €1.296 billion, marking a 20% increase from its previous contribution, to help the fund reach its goal of raising $14 billion to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria over three years.
France is a founding member of Unitaid, a global health initiative that uses innovative financing to increase funding and access to the tools needed to prevent and treat AIDS, TB, and malaria. Since its founding, the organization has helped introduce life-saving medicines, including HIV antiretroviral drugs used in Africa, drug-resistant TB treatments, and specialized malaria medication for children and pregnant women.
An especially noteworthy contribution when it comes to innovative financing is the French levy on airplane tickets. The inexpensive levy (ranging from €1 to €40, depending on class) applies to passengers flying out of France has raised more than €1 billion since it was implemented in 2006, with Unitaid being the main beneficiary.
What France Can Do to Push Forward the Fight Against AIDS, TB, and Malaria
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the fight against AIDS, TB, and malaria. The Global Fund’s Results Report 2021 revealed significant drops in TB treatment, HIV prevention outreach, and HIV testing compared to numbers before the pandemic.
The Global Fund’s 2022 goal is to raise $18 billion to save 20 million lives and get the world back on track to achieve the target of defeating the three diseases by 2030. Donors will come together during the seventh replenishment conference, which will take place in the US before the end of the year, to make their pledges.
Global Citizen, along with other civil society organizations, is asking France to pledge $1.685 billion for the next three years, marking a 30% increase from its last replenishment.
But this is just one step in the fight to end AIDS, TB, and malaria. In fact, Tchiombiano would argue that it’s a bare minimum in the grand scheme of improving global health and reducing health inequity around the world. She says the Global Fund needs to do more in prioritizing sustainable development goals in its agenda and collaborate with international partners that exist beyond the health sector.
“If the ‘siloed’ approach has allowed us to achieve results that we would never have dared to imagine in the early 2000s, it is now time to move on to a new chapter in the fight against the three diseases, one that is more focused on strengthening health systems,” Tchiombiano said. “Ending the three pandemics will only be possible when the fight against them becomes structural and integrated into the service packages of health facilities.”