Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:41 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:41 | SYDNEY

Fighting HIV and TB in China (part 3)


Bill Bowtell

16 November 2007 11:40

After Xi’an, I arrived in Kunming to attend to the 16th Board meeting of the Global Fund, and the first ever Global Fund board meeting to be held in China.

The meeting took place only after a serious negotiation between the Fund and the Chinese government over travel restrictions the Chinese government still places on HIV-positive visitors. The Global Fund made it clear that it could not hold the meeting in China unless the Chinese government reviewed its restrictive policies. The Chinese government assured the Fund that it would undertake such a review, and that the present discriminatory arrangements will be abolished well before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This will bring China into line with general global practice, leaving the US as the only large country to maintain this unnecessarily discriminatory provision in its immigration laws.

The Board meeting itself went very well under the decisive leadership of Global Fund chair Rajat Gupta and the Fund’s outstanding Executive Director, Michel Kazatchkine. The Board approved the latest round of 73 new grants totaling some $US1.1 billion.  This brings the Global Fund’s portfolio to $US10 billion in 136 countries. The Fund has been very successful in raising new funds (almost $US10 billion for the period 2008-10), but it still falls far short of the minimum necessary to stabilize new infections ,especially in relation to AIDS and TB.

The head of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, opened the Board’s session on strategy with an outstanding presentation on the global AIDS outlook.  I came away confident that the world effort is mobilizing well around care and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS, but that we are still failing to grasp that the most important task is to prevent the spread of HIV by simple behavioral changes.  Education, especially of women, is the key to bringing the pandemic under control.  In the corridors, everyone knows that far more must be done on prevention – the question as always is how to force politicians to do more than pour billions into care and treatment and very little into effective prevention.

It is a great pity the Fund was not operating twenty years ago, when so much could have been done to avert the catastrophe. Still, better late than never. I hope Australia and the Fund will cooperate much more closely in coming years to tackle the problem of the three diseases in our region, especially in the Pacific and Melanesia.