Building momentum to end AIDS, TB and malaria

In Eli Lilly and Company’s latest article, Evan Lee discusses how the pharma industry is building momentum in finding a cure for infectious diseases such as HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria.

It’s rare to have an opportunity to resign a major disease to the history books, let alone several of them. But today, thanks to an unprecedented degree of global cooperation catalyzed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we are in position to do just that.

The Global Fund is a unique financing partnership established in 2002 that has proved to be one of the most effective global health investments governments can make. In just over a decade, the organization has leveraged $23 billion to effectively stop – and begin to reverse – the global spread of HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria. It is now working to raise another $15 billion over three years to beat these diseases into submission. This represents a historic opportunity to bring HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria under control once and for all – one we must seize while we have the chance.

“…malaria alone was draining $12 billion per year from the African continent.”

Having worked in global health for a couple of decades, it’s been remarkable to see the Global Fund accomplish so much in such a short time. In the late 1990s, very few people living with HIV / AIDS had access to life-saving antiretroviral medicines. Though effective TB and malaria medicines existed, there was scant political will to invest at the scale needed to get these drugs to the people hit hardest. Together, AIDS, TB and malaria killed more than six million people each year and took a heavy toll on low- and middle-income economies. The World Health Organization Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, led by economist Jeffrey Sachs, estimated that malaria alone was draining $12 billion per year from the African continent.

When the Global Fund was founded out of the momentum generated by the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, it symbolized a profound shift in global priorities. The status quo – millions suffering and dying from treatable and preventable diseases, and impeding economic growth – would no longer be acceptable. The organization married the humanitarian and business cases for stronger, smarter global health investments, and pioneered a data-driven, results-oriented new approach to development financing. It quickly became a rallying point to mobilize the best ideas from all corners of global health and development – spanning governments, public agencies, healthcare companies, foundations, academic institutions, community-based organizations, and patient groups.

“Today, we have reached a tipping point where the total number of cases for each of these diseases is declining…”

Eleven years on, the Global Fund has set the standard for public-private partnerships and is widely viewed to be one of the most successful health efforts in history. Through its financing:

• 5.3 million people are receiving antiretroviral therapies, including 2.1 million pregnant women living with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

• 11 million cases of TB have been detected and treated.

• 340 million mosquito nets have been provided and 330 million malaria cases have been treated.

All this from virtually nothing at the turn of the century. Today, we have reached a tipping point where the total number of cases for each of these diseases is declining – and can be reduced to manageable levels by continuing to aggressively scale up access to key interventions. But as the Global Fund is careful to note, that can only happen with a broad-based and sustained commitment from all partners.

That starts with meeting the Global Fund’s current fundraising target of $15 billion over the next three years. The US and UK have taken the lead with pledges of approximately $5 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively. But their financing is conditional on other countries pitching in, and so much more is needed to maximize their contributions and reach the target.

“We have dramatically advanced our scientific understanding of HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria…”

  

Countries with high disease burdens must also make AIDS, TB and malaria control a top priority. Without the demand at the country level, and the data and technical guidance to tailor programs to local needs, the Global Fund cannot put its money to work for the patients who need it most. And there are many public-private partnerships, like the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, and other healthcare efforts that are working on aspects of these three diseases independently of the Global Fund. It’s critical that we all align our efforts with those of the Global Fund to ensure that the whole of our partnerships is greater than the sum of its parts.

I am confident that we can achieve all of these things because we have accomplished so much already. In just over a decade, we have seen historic declines in the leading infectious killers of our time. We have dramatically advanced our scientific understanding of HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria, and we have developed new partnerships and medical innovations to fight them in smarter and more cost-effective ways. Most importantly, through the catalytic work of the Global Fund, we have created life-saving momentum that we can now build upon to change the world forever. Let’s put these diseases in the history books where they belong.

The next article by Eli Lilly and Company, ‘The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: achieving the potential’ can be viewed here.

 

About the author:

Dr Evan Lee is Vice President of Global Health Programs and Access for Eli Lilly and Company. He has served as a senior policy officer for the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, where he initiated and established several international efforts to reduce the burden of TB and malaria. As a physician, Dr Lee worked as an internist and in urgent care. His International health experience includes missions served with Médecins Sans Frontières as a medical coordinator in Uganda and a TB program coordinator in Kenya.

How can pharma resign AIDS, TB and malaria to the history books?