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Global AIDS fund faces shortfalls

Global AIDS fund faces shortfalls

A global fund conceived by United Nations chief Kofi Annan to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is facing a shortfall just three years after its birth and needs donors to commit billions of dollars over the next few years. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was set up as an independent, transparent conduit for rich nations' aid against the big three killer epidemics, which together cause about 6 million deaths a year. But the Geneva-based fund's chief, Richard Feachem, said in an interview on Monday that while donors have pledged $6 billion so far--about a third of it from the United States--it needs a third as much again to meet its current commitments. AIDS treatment, especially, is a long-term commitment, and the fund needs to know how much financing it can count on in the future instead of the "very ad hoc, insecure" pledges now made by donor nations on an annual basis, Feachem said. "The shortfall in 2006 and 2007 is very substantial because up until now most donors have pledged year by year; they haven't made long-term multiyear pledges," Feachem said. "It is merely optimism that the money will be available. This 'replenishment' conference will turn optimism into firm commitments and guaranteed long-term funding." He hopes that a funding conference in Stockholm this week will accept his estimate that the fund needs $3.5 billion in 2006 and slightly more in 2007. Donor nations will then meet in London in September to settle the size of their commitments. Peter Piot, head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said it is vital to predict fund flows so that "five years down the road we won't run into the situation where we have to tell patients 'I am sorry, we are running out of money,' which is basically a death sentence." (Reuters)

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