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UNAIDS and Global Fund plan big scaleup

Two international health organizations called for a 23% increase in global funding to fight AIDS and other diseases in less developed nations.

GENEVA (AN) — Two of the largest international health organizations called for a 23% increase in global funding to fight AIDS and other diseases in less developed nations in 2020.

UNAIDS estimated $26.2 billion will be needed for the next year, up from $21.3 billion in 2017 for low-to-middle income countries. The United Nations agency has contended with shortfalls in donations, increased drug resistance and other challenges while coordinating efforts with the World Bank, World Health Organization and nine other U.N. organizations.

"UNAIDS urges a scaleup in donor and domestic resources for HIV to fill the gap and end the HIV, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals," the agency said in a statement, referring to the U.N. platform of 17 anti-poverty goals.

The estimate from UNAIDS includes $14 billion sought this year by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for its next three years of operations. The Global Fund, as the world's biggest disease-fighting financial tool, is launching its sixth major funding drive.

The Global Fund said the money will help save 16 million lives between 2021 and 2023 by building stronger health systems among member nations and halving the mortality rate for the three diseases. France will host the organization's major pledging conference in October.

The multibillion-dollar organization, backed by celebrities such as U2's Bono, Tracy Morgan, Giorgio Armani and DJ Khaled, began operating in 2002 with support from some of the global elites that frequent the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

In 2011, it weathered a severe crisis when cases of self-reported corruption, fraud and mismanagement surfaced in stories by The Associated Press. The Global Fund had to suspend or terminate grants and formed a high-level panel to improve its financial oversight.

'A dangerous point in the journey'

For the work to get done, UNAIDS will also need to improvement its management. An independent panel of experts examining the organization’s handling of sexual harassment allegations determined that UNAIDS suffers from “failed” leadership, a “broken” work culture and a managerial crisis that “threatens its vital work.”

The board of the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, said it will take “immediate” steps to respond to the sexual harassment scandal but allow its embattled leader Michel Sidibé to stay until June. Sweden, which gave UNAIDS almost $31 million last year — second only to the U.S. share of more than $82 million — had wanted Sidibé gone immediately.

Bono, who launched (Red) and The ONE Campaign in part to raise money for the Global Fund, said the fight against these diseases is far from over. The Global Fund, which partners with governments, businesses and others affected by the diseases, is heavily dependent on donors such as the U.S. and French governments and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re at a dangerous point in the journey to end AIDS, TB and malaria," Bono said in a statement. "Some people think these diseases are in the rear-view mirror, but not the 7,000 people who will die from them today, or their families.”