Red Cross condemns rich nations for reneging on Global Fund promises

Da: Agence “France Presse” October 13 – 2003 – Bangkok.

The Red Cross on Monday condemned the world’s wealthiest nations for failing to contribute the billions of dollars needed to run the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “The Global Fund is facing, once gain, a fiscal emergency because donor countries have refused to pay their fair share and commit to regular, annual payments”, said Massimo Barra of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Barra, a member of the board of the Global Fund which will meet in the northern city of Chiang Mai this week, said that without new contributions it would be forced to scale back life-saving programs to combat the diseases. The Global Fund was set up in 2002 with the aim of pooling public and private resources and providing swift ammunition to fight the three pandemics that last year claimed some six million lives.

However, the organization which gathers donor and beneficiary countries, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities, faces a shortfall estimated to be at least 500 million dollars for 2003. A coalition of health activists led by the Red Cross said that the world’s wealthiest countries including the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia have reneged on commitments to the fund which would have improved treatment for the 42 million people living with HIV-AIDS worldwide.

Of the one million Asians infected with HIV-AIDS who are in need of modern anti-retroviral medicines, only four percent are currently receiving therapy, they said in a press conference here. They also criticized the poor level of involvement of people living with HIV-AIDS in Global Fund activities, saying it undermined the goal of ensuring access to treatment for three million people in the developing world by 2005.

“Without real international commitment, the AIDS crisis will undermine economic development in Asia and the Pacific. That means real programs like the Global Fund must be assured full funding”, said Paisan Suwannawong of the Thai Treatment Action Group.