Pharmacists prepare medicine for two HIV-positive patients in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by: REUTERS / Soe Zeya Tun

This year, as the world celebrated the case of the second patient in history to be functionally cured of HIV, experts and advocacy groups sought to remind the public that the fight against HIV/AIDS still lacks a silver bullet; that for now, the important work of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment remains unfinished and urgent.

Battling the HIV pandemic is a humanitarian struggle that requires continued investment. In January, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria announced that it seeks a minimum of $14 billion to sustain its work and save 16 million lives over the next three years. Representatives of governments from around the world will convene this October to make official pledges of the amounts they will contribute toward replenishing the fund.

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In many ways, the Global Fund’s impact data speaks for itself. The fund has disbursed close to $20 billion on HIV programs since its inception in 2002. In Global Fund-supported countries, 17.5 million people accessed lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, ARVs, in 2017. Another 3.4 million received the counseling and care they need to adhere to treatment and live healthy lives. And close to 700,000 pregnant women living with HIV received services to prevent viral transmission to their babies.

But the Global Fund’s impact cannot be measured only by the number of dollars and pounds invested — or even by the more salient metrics of lives saved and impacted.

As the leaders of organizations working to end HIV/AIDS, we recognize the Global Fund’s unique impact on efforts to end the pandemic.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a major implementer of prevention and treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa. ViiV Healthcare is a global pharmaceutical company dedicated to delivering innovative treatment and care for people living with HIV. While neither organization currently receives Global Fund grants, both have benefitted tremendously from its work — because the Global Fund is more than a donor; it is a linchpin within the HIV/AIDS response that enables and amplifies other stakeholders’ important contributions to ending the pandemic.

For organizations such as EGPAF, of which the U.S. government is the largest funder, the Global Fund plays a vital role. The impact of such U.S. funded programs is often contingent on national level support and the availability of medical supplies purchased in-country by the Global Fund, especially ARVs.

For ViiV, the Global Fund executes the critical function of getting medicine into the hands of the people who need it — a tall order in some of the infrastructure-poor health systems in which the Global Fund works.

Recognizing the Global Fund’s critical role in tackling the world’s greatest infectious diseases — both as a donor and as a catalyst making other organizations’ lifesaving work possible — we call upon our countries’ leaders to make pledges that will sustain this global partnership and inspire other nations to support its continued impact.

While the U.S. directly funds programs that support the HIV response in other countries, it still bears a particularly important responsibility in replenishing the collectively-financed Global Fund. Legally, every dollar the U.S. contributes must be matched by a minimum of two dollars from the rest of the world — meaning robust American investment can serve as leverage compelling other countries to donate generously or leave U.S. dollars unclaimed.

The United Kingdom’s most significant investment in ending HIV is through the Global Fund. As a historically generous donor, the U.K. can and should uphold that proud legacy.

In industrialized nations such as the U.S. and U.K., it can be easy to forget that HIV/AIDS still claims close to 1 million lives each year, including over 100,000 children. While the state of this emergency has improved since global mortality peaked 15 years ago, ending HIV is, without a doubt, an incomplete endeavor.

The U.K. and U.S. should lead the charge to secure an HIV free future for everyone — everywhere — by fully supporting the Global Fund’s investment target.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the authors

  • Deborah Waterhouse

    Deborah Waterhouse is CEO at ViiV Healthcare and a member of GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate executive team. She joined GSK in 1996 and was most recently senior vice president of primary care within the company’s U.S. business, prior to which she led the U.S. vaccines business. She led the HIV business in the U.K. before heading the HIV Centre of Excellence for Pharma Europe and held international roles as general manager for Australia and New Zealand and senior vice president for Central Europe and Eastern Europe.
  • Chip Lyons

    Charles "Chip" Lyons has been president and CEO at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation since January 2010. He served as director of special initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's global development program. He was also president and CEO of the United States Fund for UNICEF, as well as chief of staff to the executive director, and program officer at UNICEF Mozambique.