Will the global recession impede TB care and control?

Photo by James CridlandGovernments all over the world are struggling to cope with the economic recession and millions more people are expected to lose their jobs.

In most countries, leaders are resorting to extreme cost-cutting measures that threaten funding for tuberculosis (TB) treatment and control measures across the globe.

While the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) continues its search for the US$ 5 billion in funding still needed for 2009-2010, Wall Street corporations have given themselves $18 billion in holiday bonuses (read more).

The money for these bonuses came from US tax payers but would tax payers rather fund holidays for bankers, or save lives in countries hit hard by the three diseases? The Merrill Lynch bonuses alone would have paid off GFATM’s funding short-fall in full (read more).

Jeffery Sachs, Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, has called on the US government to take back the $18 billion and use the money to help buy antiretroviral drugs and mosquito nets.

Calling the bonuses, “unbelievably egregious” Sachs said, “Those bonuses are being paid out of our bailout funds . . . I suggest the US government reclaim that funding and put the money into the Global Fund immediately.” (read more)

According to articles published last week (read more), GFATM provides a quarter of all international funding for the response to HIV, two-thirds of all the money that goes to tackling TB and three quarters of all money spent on stopping malaria.

But GFATM has only collected $3 billion of the $8 billion needed to fund projects around the world in 2009 and 2010. Sachs says the $5 billion funding short-fall faced by GFTAM is less than half a percent of the money G8 countries have spent on bailing out failed banks in the past three months (read more).

Sachs also says that the US has failed to keep its promises to GFATM and has not handed over 0.7% to 1% of its annual gross national product as agreed. “We’re at 0.16 of 1% of our income for development assistance. It’s the lowest level of all 22 donor countries,” Sachs said.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS