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OCTOBER 16, 2003
9:44 AM
Sharonann Lynch, 646 645 5225
The Incredibly Shrinking Fund: Less $$, Less AIDS Treatment, Less Participation of People with AIDS

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND - October 16 - On the same day as a U.S. Senate vote on an amendment to a spending bill that would determine whether or not the U.S. would contribute $1 billion in authorized spending to the Global Fund in 2004, the U.S. delegation to the Global Fund Board originally opposed the on-time launch of the next Global Fund grant cycle in order to justify its own neglect of the Global Fund, according to activists. The final decision of the Global Fund Board was not to delay the launch of the fourth round of requests for proposals, now scheduled for January 10, 2004. Unanswered questions still face the Board over how the next funding round will attract larger, quality applications for HIV treatment.

"The U.S. was working to delay the release of the request for proposals. Downsizing the scope and speed of the Global Fund makes sense if delegations want to shield themselves from criticism about their own stingy contributions," said Asia Russell of Health GAP. "But if you are one of the 3.2 million people living with HIV who will die without access to treatment next year, it makes no sense." The well-publicized goal promoted by the WHO to provide therapy to 3 million people by 2005 faced a setback with the results of the latest round of grants announced at the board meeting. Unless the Global Fund raises additional funds from the U.S. and other donors enabling two rounds of disbursements in 2004, while facilitating technical guidance on HIV treatment scale-up for applicants, its contributions toward the "3 by 5" initiative will remain be negligible: only 240,000 on ARV treatment by 2005, or 8% of the total, according to Global Fund officials.

The Global Fund estimates $3 billion dollars is needed to cover the costs of proposals in 2004. Because of the shortfall of funding to cover the latest round, its third, the Board authorized "borrowing" against future pledges made for 2004.

Launched in January 2001 as a new multilateral emergency response to the growing pandemics of AIDS, TB, and malaria, the number and size of Global Fund grants have reduced over time, particularly for HIV/AIDS treatment programs.

In the developing world the number of people dying daily because of untreated HIV/AIDS has risen to 8,500, causing the WHO to declare the lack of access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in developing countries a "Global Health Emergency."

Because of consistent underfunding and lack of technical assistance for recipient countries submitting proposals for HIV treatment programs, the Fund's third round of grants announced yesterday constituted a 38% drop in the number of new people on ARV treatment from the previous round of grant disbursements. 283,000 people are expected to be receiving HIV therapy due to Global Fund financing in the second round. For Africa the amount of people expected to be on treatment in the first year of grant disbursement, 93,000,will be less than half than were covered in the previous round.

"This round should be a wake-up call for the Global Fund," said Sharonann Lynch of Health GAP. "Unless billions are committed for 2004, along with aggressive and competent technical assistance to applicants, we will not seean improvement in the size of proposals towards scaling up treatment."

The White House is obstructing efforts to commit $1 billion next year to the Global Fund, despite a previous spending promise by President Bush. "Bush wants his bilateral AIDS program to be the only game in town, even if it means undermining multilateral programs that are already up and running and proving effective, and that should be complementary with the Global Fund," said Amanda Lugg of Health GAP.

The delegations of people living with HIV/AIDS and activist groups lost an earlier debate at the board meeting, requesting the Global Fund adopt a funding framework requiring countries commit to annual financing to the GFATM based on the size of their economies.


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