The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) should expand its mandate to include emergency funding for other infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics like COVID-19. According to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the world’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS care globally, GFATM’s track record of delivering lifesaving results with a high degree of transparency, accountability, and multisectoral buy-in, makes it the best financing facility for future international health emergencies.
Instead of creating a new pandemic financing facility, as proposed by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), the world should build upon the GFATM model to raise additional, sustainable funding for pandemic preparedness and surge financing. Confidence in the GFATM has recently been underscored by an unprecedented infusion of $3.5 billion for emergency COVID-19 relief by the United States.
“Why should we spend money and time reinventing what already works? We are not saying the Global Fund should abandon AIDS, TB, and malaria – quite the contrary. Let’s leverage its inclusivity of civil society, programmatic and technical know-how, and the trust of its donors to protect global public health from ongoing and future pandemics,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “In our programs across 45 countries, where we deliver treatment and services to well over 1.5 million clients, we clearly see that HIV does not exist in isolation from COVID-19. One pandemic invariably affects the other, and therefore, both must be fought together. Raising $100 billion for pandemic preparedness and response would go a long way in ensuring the world has enough money to respond quickly, and it would be far cheaper than the economic devastation of another pandemic.”
Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami, is a former head of the National AIDS Program of Mexico. He has also served on the GFATM Board in various capacities, including as a board member, and believes that the GFATM has a unique and timely opportunity to expand its mandate.
“The Board of the Global Fund is much smaller and leaner than that of the World Health Organization, and it has the voices and votes of all relevant stakeholders, not just governments,” said Dr. Saavedra. “New resources for pandemic preparedness would help fill gaps in funding for global public health goods at national, regional, and global levels, particularly among low and middle income countries, to ensure comprehensive and inclusive pandemic preparedness and response. For the wealthier countries, the International Monetary Fund could step in and provide support as it did with some European countries during the 2008 financial crisis.”
Dr. Jorge Saavedra and Michael Weinstein are among the 21 co-authors of the “Global Public Health Convention for the 21st Century,” an article that was published in The Lancet journal on May 5, 2021. Among its recommendations, the article tackles the issue of sustainable financing for pandemic preparedness and response.