Global Fund calls on beneficiary countries to show commitment in attaining

Dr Debrework Zewdie, Deputy Executive Director of The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has called on countries take up the responsibility of commitment to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) regarding the three diseases since it is only four years away.

She said beneficiary countries should be anticipating what to do when the donor fund collapses adding, countries should be able to contribute their counterpart funding for the running of the programme.

Dr Zewdie was speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview at the close of the first ever Global Health Metrics conference on the theme “Controversies, Innovation, Accountability”.

She said though many countries could not single handedly fund the programmes of Malaria, HIV and AIDS, and Tuberculosis from their domestic funding, there was the need for a sustained efforts in achieving the MDGs and even beyond.

Dr Zewdie said the Fund as an international financing institution had since its inception in 2002, committed 21.7 billion dollars in 150 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against the three diseases to save lives.

“Unfortunately there some African countries that have mishandled their funds and had not used them for the intended purposes”, she added.

Ghana fortunately, is among the few countries that managed their fund properly and have chalked successes in the management of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS and have therefore qualified for the round 10 of the project.

Dr Zewdie noted that “African countries needed to come out to say what the Global Fund has done for them instead of us telling the world what the Fund has done for countries”.

This, she explained will motivate the Fund donors to put in more money for the fight of theses deadly diseases.

The conference was attended by over 600 researchers, policy makers and global health leaders from around the world who will be sharing ground breaking advances in health measurements as well as tackle contentious debates.

The conference highlighted innovative methods, latest debates in measurements, and translation of data to inform effective policy for improved population health.

It was co-hosted by the Institute for health Metrics and Evaluation, The Lancet, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health and the University Of Queensland School Of Population Health.

It also fostered greater exchange of ideals, collaboration and intellectual innovation and help bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries by demonstrating the force and potential of multi disciplinary intellectual endeavours in population health.

Topics discussed include non-communicable diseases, malaria, priority setting and health inequalities.

Dr Zewdie said the substantial increase in resources dedicated to health through development assistance and other sources in the last eight years had changed the trajectory of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as other health problems in low- and middle-income countries.

She said: “But there are signs of a dramatic turnaround in the fight against these devastating diseases. New HIV infections are declining in many of the countries most affected by the epidemic. More and more countries are in a position to target the elimination of malaria from their territories whilst the world is on course to halve TB mortality by 2015 in comparison with 1990”.

With HIV, 3 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment, whilst 7.7 million new cases of infectious tuberculosis have been detected and treated.

Another 160 million insecticide-treated nets have also been distributed to protect families from transmission.

“Every day Global Fund-supported programs save at least 4,400 lives and prevent thousands of new infections and by December 2010 a total of 6.5 million lives had been saved”, she added.

Giving the situation of HIV and AIDS and the efforts made to address the situation globally, Dr Zewdie said more than 33 million people worldwide were infected with HIV.

She said by the end of 2010 more than 5 million people in low and middle-income countries had access to antiretroviral therapy, of which 3 million were receiving it through Global Fund-financed programs.

Dr Zewdie said with the substantial increase in resources available to fight the disease, AIDS mortality has decreased in many high-burden countries.

She said for example, in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the rollout of antiretroviral therapy has led to a decline of about 50 percent in adult AIDS deaths over a period of five years.

Answering to the challenges being faced in reversing the spread of HIV, Dr Zewdie said the epidemic was still expanding in some regions and at-risk populations.

She said globally, new infections still outpace the number of people starting treatment by 2 to 1, while the upward trend in resources has halted.

Dr Zewdie said many young women in the Sub-Saharan Africa were as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive.

Worldwide, 79 countries criminalize same-sex relations and six apply the death penalty and there were 10 million people still waiting for treatment – two-thirds of those eligible under the new treatment guidelines issued by WHO in 2010.

Dr Zewdie explained that major progress had been made in just the last few years, in eliminating malaria with an increasing number of countries reporting impressive declines in malaria cases and deaths down by more than 50 percent in 11 African countries and 32 countries in other regions with more and more countries being in a position to target the elimination of malaria from their territories.

“These substantial reductions in malaria burden are due to the phenomenal expansion in access to antimalarial interventions of the last three years”, she added.

The Deputy Executive Director of the Global Fund said the availability of the most effective antimalarial drugs, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) has also risen dramatically.

Worldwide, the number of treatment courses procured increased from just over 11 million in 2005 to 158 million in 2009.

Dr Zewdie said “if the momentum of the last decade is maintained, malaria could be eliminated as a public health problem in most endemic countries”.

She said though the incidence of new cases worldwide was falling too slowly at around 1 percent per year, multi-drug-resistant TB was on the increase, particularly in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia.

Levels of case detection and successful treatment were also far too low. Only 12 percent (30,000) of the estimated cases were notified in 2009 and less than 5 percent were properly treated.

The HIV epidemic has fuelled the TB epidemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Too little is done to prevent TB among people living with HIV, who account for 13 percent of the new TB cases in 2009. Less than 1 percent of the estimated number of people living with HIV worldwide received isoniazid preventive therapy in 2009 and only 26 percent of TB patients knew their HIV status.

Service coverage for TB/HIV co-infections remained very low. By December 2010 Global Fund-supported programs had provided a total of 2.4 million TB/HIV services.

“If the current trends continue the world can meet the Millennium Development Goal target for incidence – that new cases should be falling by 2015 – and the Stop TB Partnership target to halve TB mortality by 2015 in comparison with 1990”, Dr Zewdie noted.

Source: GNA

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