November 28, 2011
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria announced Wednesday that it will make no new grants for the next two years due to the global economic downturn and the European financial crisis. The fund will continue supporting about 400 AIDS treatment and prevention programs working in more than 100 countries for now, but it will not subsidize new patients or service increases.
"We cannot at the moment encourage in good faith an expansion of these programs," said Christoph Benn, the fund's director of external relations. "We do realize we have a very strong obligation to support these programs. We can guarantee that programs that are currently running will continue."
The Global Fund's board of directors made the decision after a two-day meeting in Ghana. The fund has enough pledges to cover the $7 billion in grants already awarded.
Previously a big supporter, Italy reneged on pledges for 2009 and 2010. Spain cut its $200 million pledge for 2010 to $134 million, and it has not made any new pledges through to 2013, said Andrew Hurst, a fund spokesperson. Many observers also say the fund will be lucky if Congress flat-funds the U.S. contribution, which was $1.05 billion this year.
The March 2012 grant application round, in which 90 countries were expected to submit funding requests, has now been canceled. In addition, China, Russia, Mexico, and Argentina were deemed wealthy enough to no longer be eligible for grants.
"It was a very difficult and contentious decision," said Joanne Carter, head of AIDS and TB treatment lobby group Results, who attended the meeting as a stakeholder delegate. "It's a huge issue for countries, which see this next period of time as absolutely critical in terms of scale-up."
Ironically, the cutback is concurrent with calls from experts to increase funding for proven interventions such as "treatment-as-prevention" and male circumcision to decrease the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission.