Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer, Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH
This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes AIDS. The virus specifically targets T cells, which play a critical role in the body's immune response against invaders like bacteria and viruses. Colors were added by the source. (Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer, Austin Athman/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH via AP)

Last week we were visited by a brave young woman from Zimbabwe. Infected with HIV at birth, orphaned by AIDS at age 10, almost killed by tuberculosis at age 12, then by a teen suicide attempt triggered by ostracism and despair, Loyce Maturu credits her survival to the help and medicines brought to her village by the Global Fund. Now a strong advocate, Loyce flew into Utah to visit the offices of Sen. Romney (on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and Rep. Curtis (on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) to educate and motivate them to support the Global Fund.

Started in 2002 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the Global Fund is a worldwide consortium of philanthropists, private service organizations, and over 60 donor countries combining their resources to combat the three deadliest infectious diseases: tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria. In the past 17 years the Global Fund has had great success, decreasing the death rate by one-third and saving 27 million lives. But more remains to be done.

In 2017 TB, AIDS and malaria killed over 2.9 million people around the globe. This is more than 20 times the number killed that year in all of the current wars and armed conflicts. These deaths from infections are all the more regrettable because we have the science and the medicines to prevent, treat and control these scourges. The Global Fund is able to save a life from malaria with a $3 bed net, save a life from tuberculosis with $20 of antibiotics, or keep an HIV patient alive and thriving with a daily pill costing just 20 cents.

Every three years the donor nations meet to re-commit to supporting the Global Fund. This October there is another opportunity for the United States to again step up and continue to lead this effort with both financial and moral leadership. The Global Fund fulfills humanitarian goals, has efficient and transparent processes, helps strengthen a country’s own health infrastructure, protects local economies and thus lessens the chances of regional conflicts. It has always had strong bipartisan support in Congress.

This year that support in Washington is threatened. Despite his State of the Union pledge to “defeat AIDS in America and beyond”, the president is now trying to slash this funding. To put the American contribution to the Global Fund in perspective, the $1.56 billion per year represents much less than one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. budget, and amounts to only $4.73 for each U.S. citizen. So, for the price of a fancy coffee, my tax share could be invested in saving another 16 million lives in the next three years.

1 comment on this story

What is now needed is the heroism to stand up to the administration and demand that the U.S. continue its strong leadership role in the fight against these diseases. Sen. Romney, Rep. Curtis, please make a stand to save 16 million lives. In the ongoing battle for survival between humans and microorganisms, the president, the secretary of state, and the world need to be told which side we are fighting for.

Loyce continues to demonstrate heroism, fighting each day to stay alive. She continues to fight for the lives of others. She is dependent on the generosity of the world through the Global Fund to continue to bring lifesaving medicine to her village. That supply depends upon our congressional leaders to fight for her life, and to fight for the lives of 16 million men, women and children not yet reached. She, and they, now need Sen. Romney and Rep. Curtis to demonstrate such heroism.