17. Million. Lives.

By Mark Dybul

in Voices on 21 September 2015

Not long ago, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria looked unstoppable. In many countries, AIDS devastated an entire generation, leaving countless orphans and shattered communities. Malaria killed young children and pregnant women unable to protect themselves from mosquitoes or to access the right medicine. Tuberculosis unfairly afflicted the poor, as it had for millennia.

Partners in global health came together, to fight back. By working together, by pooling resources and expertise, and by involving people affected by the diseases, civil society, the private sector and governments, we have made progress way beyond what seemed possible.

Today, the Global Fund issued a Results Report, showing that health investments made through the Global Fund have saved 17 million lives, expanding opportunity and achieving greater social justice for families and communities worldwide. Even better, the report shows that advances in science and innovative solutions are accelerating progress at an ever faster-rate, getting us on track to reach 22 million lives saved by the end of next year.

But it’s no time to celebrate. We are only half way there. Tremendous challenges in global health still await us. Adolescent girls are contracting HIV at a terrible rate in southern Africa. TB/HIV co-infection is on the rise, as is multidrug-resistant TB. Gains made against malaria could be lost if we don’t expand prevention and treatment programs.

We have to concentrate on several key areas, including focus on adolescent girls and women, advancing human rights, and building resilient and sustainable systems for health.

Many more lives are still at risk. We must seize the momentum, embrace ambition and move faster to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics. Let’s remember that it has been a magnificent display of the human spirit that has gotten us so far. The greatest reward for this collective achievement lies not in the massive number – 17 million – but in the impact every life saved has for a loved one, family, friend, community and nation.

A life saved from AIDS is a mother who can raise her daughter and teach her about staying safe from HIV. A life saved from TB is a father who can return to work and earn a living to support his family. A life saved from malaria is a child who thrives beyond her 5th birthday and becomes a doctor, or perhaps the next President of Liberia.

The achievements of the Global Fund partnership are the results of determination to make our world better and more just, with contributions by governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by HIV, TB and malaria. The people whose lives have been saved owe their thanks most of all to the partners on the ground, who do the hard work of preventing and treating and caring for those affected by these diseases.

As world leaders gather next week to formulate Sustainable Development Goals, as building blocks for improving the lives of billions of people, the achievements of global health can serve as a model for what can be achieved when communities come together and aim for common goals, like a world free from the burden on AIDS, TB, and malaria.