15 May 2020
GENEVA – The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria embraced a swift and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect progress against HIV, TB, malaria and to strengthen systems for health to save lives.
The Board, concluding its 43rd meeting and the first one held virtually, agreed on the imperative to leave no one behind, stressing the critical role of communities in keeping people safe, especially when facing a new wave of challenges. Recognizing the severe danger posed by COVID-19 to progress made against HIV, TB and malaria, the Board asserted a strong commitment to striving for equitable access and protecting the most vulnerable.
Advancing global health security and strengthening systems for health is central to protecting the Global Fund’s core mission and to fight new and emerging diseases like COVID-19. The Board discussed measures to make sure that mitigation and response strategies will protect people, by leveraging the power of multi-stakeholder engagement and partnerships including civil society, communities, government and private sector partners.
“This is one and the same fight,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “It’s not just a battle against one particular virus, it’s a commitment to make everyone safe. It’s about finishing the fights we haven’t yet won, and winning the new fight against COVID-19, as well as preparing ourselves for fights against pathogens as yet unseen.”
“A concept of global health security that only focuses on threats to people living in rich countries won’t work,” Sands added. “We need global health security that protects everyone, from new threats and old, that is grounded in rights and that simultaneously recognizes the role of science and the equally important role of communities. We must unite to fight.”
Board members expressed strong support for enhancing guidance, monitoring and risk management in the rapidly evolving context. Effective monitoring mechanisms, strong analysis and tracking of the evolving epidemiological, social and economic impact all need to be reflected in the Global Fund’s risk assessment and mitigation measures.
Beginning in March 2020, the Global Fund launched new measures to respond swiftly and effectively to COVID-19 in close collaboration with other partners, making up to US$1 billion available to help countries fight COVID-19, mitigate the impacts on lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs, and prevent fragile health systems from being overwhelmed.
The Global Fund is also a founding partner of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration of organizations and governments working to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 technologies. The Global Fund also co-leads the WHO Diagnostics Consortium along with UNICEF to negotiate pricing and procure molecular diagnostic tests for COVID-19 responses.
At its meeting, the Board also discussed development of the next Global Fund Strategy and the need to adapt to the new challenges posed by COVID-19 and by climate change, with a fresh imperative, as one Board member put it, “for engaging our strengths in delivery of our purpose.”
“Development of our new strategy will be driven by evidence through an inclusive process,” said Donald Kaberuka, Chairman of the Board of the Global Fund.
The Board has consistently underscored the removal of human rights and gender barriers to health care as a critically important element, recognizing that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the poorest, the most marginalized and the most vulnerable, in the same way as HIV, TB and malaria.
The Global Fund raises and invests more than US$4 billion a year to support programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria in more than 100 countries. The infrastructure and capabilities to defeat diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria – medical supply chains, laboratories, community health workers, disease surveillance – are also needed to fight COVID-19.
Under WHO guidance, the Global Fund strongly encourages countries to take prompt action to mitigate the potential negative consequences of COVID-19 on existing programs supported by Global Fund grants.