As a founding partner of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria is at the forefront of the global COVID-19 response.
Since 2002, the organization has saved more than 44 million lives, decreasing deaths caused by AIDS, TB, and malaria by 46% globally, while providing COVID-19 tests, treatments (including medical oxygen), and personal protective equipment (PPE) to millions of people across the world since the beginning of COVID-19.
“The Global Fund fights injustice which fuels infectious diseases,” the Global Fund’s Executive Director, Peter Sands, told Global Citizen. “We are the biggest organization fighting the deadliest infectious diseases – HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria, and now COVID-19 – at scale, worldwide.”
“We should protect everyone, everywhere, from the deadliest infectious diseases, those we face today, and those we will inevitably face tomorrow,” added Sands.
Pre-pandemic, fighting infectious disease was already a significant challenge, but since 2004, deaths from infectious diseases have dropped by half.
Today, the pandemic has almost stalled the life-saving programs, disrupting the delivery of health services and threatening to reverse this hard-won progress. A rapid and decisive COVID-19 response by the Global Fund partnership is working hard to meet these shortfalls, leveraging global partnerships to protect health workers and ensure communities are prepared for this pandemic and the next.
As a long-time partner of Global Citizen, the Global Fund joined Global Citizen for Global Goal: Unite for Our Future, announcing US$168 million in commitments for its COVID-19 response.
To find out more about the Global Fund’s work tackling some of the world’s most urgent infectious diseases, Global Citizen spoke with Sands following the one year anniversary of Global Goal: Unite for Our Future — a summit and concert held by Global Citizen and the European Commission in June 2020 — and the launch of the Global Fund Results Report in September.
Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands and Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway address the crowd at the Global Citizen Festival in New York, Sep 2019.
In what ways are you inspired by what you do at the Global Fund every day?
Sands: This year, the Global Fund celebrates 20 years of making the impossible possible. Twenty years ago, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria looked unbeatable. Year after year, the world’s deadliest epidemics were claiming millions of lives with devastating consequences for families and communities around the world, especially in poor countries.
In 2001, the birth of a brave new partnership changed the story of global health, uniting world leaders, communities, civil society, health workers, and the private sector to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Over the course of two decades, the three diseases have been stopped in their tracks.
The Global Fund was born out of a refusal to accept the loss of millions of lives each year to diseases that were both preventable and treatable.
At the time, just 0.05% of people living with HIV in Africa were receiving antiretroviral therapy — medication that was already widespread in high-income countries. One million children were dying of malaria each year, while millions of tuberculosis cases went undetected and untreated.
Activists, especially in southern Africa, demanded equal access to treatment for everyone. Born from urgency, the call for justice grew louder, united around one goal: to save lives and end HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria as epidemics.
The Global Fund fights injustice which fuels infectious diseases. We challenge power dynamics to ensure affected communities have an equal voice in the fight and an equal chance at a healthy future. It is the opportunity to change and address inequalities around the world.
Mali is one of the first countries in Africa to pilot new mosquito nets to combat insecticide-resistance. N'Tabakoro, Kulikoro, outskirts of Bamako. Credit: Global Fund
Why is the work of an organization like the Global Fund so essential in the fight to protect the world from COVID-19?
The Global Fund is a worldwide movement to defeat HIV, TB, and malaria and ensure a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all. Even before this pandemic struck, the Global Fund was raising and investing over US$4 billion a year to fight the deadliest infectious diseases, challenge the injustice which fuels them and strengthen health systems in more than 100 of the hardest hit countries.
Now we’re doing double that.
We are the biggest organization fighting the deadliest infectious diseases — HIV, TB, and malaria, and now COVID-19 — at scale, worldwide. We are the largest multilateral investor in grants for health systems, investing well over US$1 billion a year to build resilient health care systems and community health networks that are at the core of the response to any pandemics.
The Global Fund is now the primary channel for providing grant support to low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 tests, treatments, personal protective equipment (PPE), and related health system strengthening.
Women in the Rangamati district of southeastern Bangladesh are learning about malaria prevention from their community health worker. This region is one of several malaria “hot zones” in the country. Credit: The Global Fund / Saiful Huq Omi
In a recent op-ed, you wrote that "COVID-19 should be a catalyst for a radical rethinking of approaches to shared global health." How can global leaders from rich countries support health equity, and continue to prioritize low-and middle- income countries so COVID-19 doesn’t become another ‘largely forgotten disease?’
The “Kiran Sitara” program by IRD Pakistan empowers girls and trains them to fight TB in their communities. 10,000 trained girls from 58 schools gathered in Karachi in November 2019 to celebrate the program’s achievements. Credit: The Global Fund / Mustaf
21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016), Durban, South Africa. Photo shows TAC March through the Durban CBD, 18 July, 2016. Credit: Global Fund
H ow does the Global Fund's COVID-19 response help communities respond quickly to COVID-19, while continuing to support programs that combat HIV, TB, and malaria? Why is it important that Global Citizens continue to take action to support the work of the Global Fund, and its work to support community health programs?
Eunice Adhiambo – a mother living with HIV at a health facility near Sirongo beach, Kenya. A banking scheme set up by a local HIV support group helps her sustain herself and her child. The Global Fund / Sam Wolson