UK pledges £1.4B to Global Fund, boosting advocates' spirits

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at the G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. Photo by: REUTERS / Kiyoshi Ota

LONDON — The United Kingdom pledged £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Friday, with advocates hoping the commitment will encourage other donors to give generously as the fund chases a $14 billion replenishment to support its work over the next three years.

Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement — a 16% increase on the U.K.’s last contribution in 2016 — at the G-20 summit in Japan. She also urged other international leaders to up their contributions to the fund, which was founded in 2002 to tackle three of the world’s deadliest epidemics.

Declining aid budgets and political turmoil, especially in the United States — the fund’s biggest donor — has sparked concerns that the multilateral health partnership may not meet its fundraising target when donors meet for its sixth replenishment conference in France in October.

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Advocates say that without continued action, progress toward eradicating the three diseases is at risk. New HIV infection rates have increased among some groups, malaria control efforts have stalled, and multi-drug resistant TB is a growing concern.

The U.K.’s strong and early pledge has boosted advocates’ spirits.

“We're absolutely delighted that the U.K. has made a pledge of such magnitude … Despite turbulent political times, the pledge shows the U.K. is committed to ending the world’s deadliest diseases,” Mike Podmore, director of STOPAIDS, a network of U.K. NGOs working on HIV/AIDS, said in a statement.

Frontline AIDS executive director Christine Stegling also said the U.K.’s global health leadership was crucial at a time of uncertainty.

“We are at a crossroads in the HIV response. We need clear political and financial leadership from donors and implementing countries if we want to ensure we do not lose the gains from the last 20 years,” she said.

The U.K. said its funding will help provide medication to more than 3 million people living with HIV, treat more than 2 million people with TB, and provide 90 million mosquito nets to protect families from malaria. 

The pledge includes a £200 million match fund to encourage the private sector to invest in the fight against malaria by offering to double its commitments, the government said in a statement.

Another £100 million has been set aside for interventions to improve health systems, prevent new infections, and tackle antimicrobial resistance, and is subject to a performance agreement between the fund and the U.K. Department for International Development. The U.K. attached similar conditions to its last replenishment.

International development secretary Rory Stewart confirmed the government would be urging other countries to follow its lead.

“We’re going to continue to invest in controlling and ultimately ending these diseases, and we will be making sure other countries contribute generously,” he said in a statement.

Several others have already revealed increased commitments. Japan upped its funding by 5% to $850 million, Portugal more than tripled its previous pledge to €750,000 ($849,588), Ireland added 50% to reach €45 million, and Luxembourg increased funding by 11% to €9 million.

However, advocates are yet to hear a final number from the U.S. following the Trump administration’s proposed cut. The European Commission, historically the fund’s sixth largest funder, has also said it cannot give a figure until ongoing budget negotiations have been settled.

About the author

  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.