October 25, 2001. News.
Fund to be operational by end of year -- Kiyonga
By Carl Bialik
The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria should be operational by the end of this year, as scheduled, announced Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, chairman of the working group to establish the fund, on Sat., Oct. 13, in New York. He said the working group had, the day before, settled on the Fundís name, and would establish in the coming three to four weeks the Fundís governance structure, legal status, and accountability mechanisms, and the criteria for accessing the Fund.
Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, was originally scheduled to deliver the keynote address at The Hunger Projectís Africa Prize for Leadership ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. But instead he participated in the Burundi peace talks in Pretoria, South Africa. So Dr. Kiyonga, Ugandaís National Political Commissar, delivered Museveniís speech, which echoed the nightís theme of the importance of African leadership in solving Africaís AIDS crisis.
After delivering those remarks, however, Dr. Kiyonga shifted to his role as chairman of the working group, which he has held since late July. He communicated a powerful message about the vital need for money as well as leadership in the fight against disease. Speaking in economic terms, Kiyonga said AIDS, TB and malaria had negative externalities and the fight against the diseases was a public good, but that "market failures" had left the fight underfunded.
This has led to "huge gaps in efforts," Dr. Kiyonga said, including: responses that fell short of the pace of infections; a wide gap between the known effective technology and what was being used in the poorest affected countries; insufficient research to find remedies for diseases chiefly afflicting people who cannot pay high prices for treatment; and inadequate public awareness of these diseasesí impact.
This information gap, Dr. Kiyonga stressed, was not confined to impoverished countries. Over the past month, he has traveled to a number of world capitals in connection with his work as chairman of the working group. At an international symposium in Tokyo some weeks before, someone asked him, "What returns shall the taxpayers get by contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria?"
Dr. Kiyonga also noted that he has recently seen little coverage on CNN and BBC of the "tragedy that has befallen the world being caused by HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria." These networks, like most in the West, have been devoting most airtime to the terrorist attacks on the United States last month, the resulting military campaign against Afghanistan, and the recent anthrax scare.
These events, often described as world-changing, have killed thousands. Dr. Kiyonga calmly read out the staggering statistics of AIDS, malaria and TB: 22 million people killed by AIDS, more than 13 million children orphaned. More than five million people killed and 250 million debilitated in developing countries each year by the three diseases. More than one billion people surviving on less than US$1 a day.
One response Dr. Kiyonga would make to the Japanese manís query: "The high resistance against the known drugs to treat malaria and TB means these diseases can quickly engulf the whole world."
This is an important point, because when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan originally conceived of the fund, it was to target only AIDS. However, at the UN General Assemblyís special session on AIDS in late June, contributions to the fund were disappointing. The $1.5 billion pledged by corporations and governments -- including $2 million from Uganda and a mere $7,000 from Kenya -- fell fall short of the targeted $10 billion. One European official attending the meeting told The Ottawa Citizen that European Union representatives agreed, at a pre-conference meeting in New York, that they objected to the fund because it excluded TB and other diseases which kill AIDS sufferers with weak immune systems.
Dr. Kiyonga and his working group have overcome that hurdle by changing the groupís focus, but now a much greater obstacle to fundraising looms: the terrorist attacks in recent weeks had not only drawn the lionís share of media coverage, but also of philanthropic support. While the Global Fund remains at $1.5 billion, donations to relief and recovery efforts for the attacks topped $1 billion last Wednesday, just five weeks and a day after the attacks.
Therefore, Dr. Kiyonga ended, fittingly, with a plea for money. "I want to use this opportunity to call on all citizens of the world to support this initiative in all ways possible," he said, "particularly making cash contributions to the Fund."Copyright © 2002 Carl Bialik
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