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Global Fund: India strengthens commitment

TB-free India.
Activists campaigning for a TB-free India.

India will step up its efforts to fight infectious diseases including tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and HIV/AIDS by distributing more funds to the Global Fund. 

Established in 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria claims it “mobilizes and invests more than US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries.” India joined the Fund as a donor in 2006 and, in its next replenishment cycle for the 2020-22 period, will increase its patronage by ten percent to US$22 million. As of 2019, India has allocated a total of US$46.5 million to the Global Fund whilst also receiving grants from the organisation to fund programmes combating the diseases. 

“India’s pledge for the Global Fund strongly demonstrates its strong political leadership to achieve universal health and its equally strong commitment to work across borders and join hands in fighting the epidemic of these three diseases,” said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. “I urge upon all nations to come together and contribute generously towards this noble cause,” he added. 

The Global Fund welcomed the contribution, saying it “[highlights] India’s leadership in global efforts to end AIDS, TB and malaria as epidemics and to build stronger health systems.” Executive director Peter Sands lauded the move and said “we all need to step up the fight. Through global solidarity and effective partnerships, we will be able to save millions of lives.”

HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB are all issues of significant concern to public health in India. The Centre has set ambitious targets in fighting these diseases, pledging to eliminate malaria by 2030 and TB by 2025 while working to bring down new HIV infections by around 20,000 cases a year in 2019 and 2020. Then-Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda announced on World AIDS Day last year that India intends to make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past by 2030. 

Progress has been made. For example, India managed to slash malaria cases by 24 percent between 2016 and 2017 and new HIV infections have fallen considerably since the start of the decade. Political will in the fight against TB is high. However, challenges remain such as drug resistance, gaps in monitoring and surveillance systems, and limited accessibility to diagnostics and treatment in multiple parts of the country. Steps have been taken to these ends, though need to be scaled up. Nonetheless, the Health Ministry is optimistic about the role India has to play in the global fight against the diseases, both at home and abroad. 

“We are adequately financing our efforts to accomplish our goals of TB, HIV and malaria elimination,” said Vardhan. “With our increased pledge, India has inched a step closer in this direction by stepping up the Global Fund efforts to strengthen health systems and save sixteen million more lives across the globe.” 

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