Small investments can make a huge difference in the health of people around the world, write guest columnists Steve Gloyd and Jim McDermott. The delivery of antiretroviral medicines to people with HIV in developing nations is a great example of lives saved and families made stronger.
TEN cents out of every $100 would get the job done.
According to acclaimed economist Jeffrey Sachs, if the United States, European countries and Japan made a commitment to donate just 10 cents on every $100 generated by our economies, we could help save 6 to 8 million lives each year.
The global community would have enough resources to address the AIDS epidemic, prevent children from dying of diseases that are easy to prevent and treat and ensure that mothers have safe deliveries throughout the world’s most under-resourced areas.
The challenge is not in whether the funds exist, but whether we have the vision and the will to mobilize them.
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We should look to the global response to HIV/AIDS to inspire us.
Four million people are alive today who otherwise would not be because they are on lifesaving AIDS treatment. In Mozambique, a woman named Florencia learned she was HIV-positive in 2002. She was one of the lucky few at the time to start on antiretroviral medications, and seven years later is thriving, working and sending her daughter to medical school. Florencia’s story is multiplied by more than 160,000 times today — that’s the number of HIV-positive Mozambicans currently on antiretrovirals provided for free through government clinics.
These results are a testament to the AIDS activists who refused to accept that treatment for all was “unaffordable,” and gave us a new vision of what is possible. Poverty, whether in the U.S. or Mozambique, is no longer a tolerable justification for denying treatment to those who are clinically eligible.
President Obama announced a new Global Health Initiative earlier this year, proposing $63 billion over six years. The announcement heralded a more comprehensive approach to global health by also prioritizing maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases and training and support of health workers in addition to combating infectious disease.
This expanded initiative is laudable, but we cannot make advances in some areas at the expense of people living with HIV. We must fulfill our promises to those whose lives and futures depend on daily antiretrovirals. This means carrying through with the authorizations Congress made last year to fight AIDS, as well as tuberculosis and malaria.
And we must not merely stand still — it is time to take our commitment to a new level. In addition to working to equip labs and clinics and train a work force to treat and care for those living with HIV, we must work to strengthen primary health care across the board, ensuring that all people have the care they need, whether for HIV, or prenatal care, or pneumonia. AIDS funding has contributed to health-system improvements and better health outcomes for other diseases, but more is necessary.
U.S. advocacy and funding for HIV/AIDS have inspired the world to act. Americans are also notably generous in the face of human suffering; a recent survey [http://www.kff.org/globalhealth/posr111209pkg.cfm] found that most Americans want the U.S. to contribute significantly to global health.
A coalition of organizations has called on the administration to think boldly and increase the total commitment over the next six years from $63 billion to $95 billion. Their report, called “The Future of Global Health,” [http://www.theglobalhealthinitiative.org/] outlines a set of targets to make real progress on HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and child health, tropical diseases and the health workers and systems that underpin all of these efforts.
This momentous contribution would hardly require belt-tightening in our tough economic times. Ten cents out of every $100 would get the job done.
Dr. Steve Gloyd, left, is executive director of Seattle-based Health Alliance International and a professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health. U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott represents Washington’s 7th District and recently co-sponsored a congressional briefing on global health.