Australia, through AusAID, is supporting the Global Fund to address these life-threatening diseases in the world's poorest countries.
The Global Fund helps Australia to meet the aid program's strategic objective of saving lives as well as achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Since 2004, Australia has contributed $250 million to the Global Fund with a further $170 million committed by 2013.
Speaker: Dr Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
DYBUL: I'm in Australia to thank the people of Australia and the government for their strong partnership with the Global Fund, in combating HIV, TB and malaria in this region, in the Asia-Pacific region, but also more globally. We have a very strong partnership and we're meeting with a wide variety of people, from the government, from civil society, people who do work in the area, World Vision, for example, and Oil Search, who do great work in Papua New Guinea, with the Global Fund. So we're meeting with a wide range of people in three different cities in three days.
LAM: In the past seven years, Australia has contributed $250 million to the Global Fund. Is that considered a respectable sum for a country of Australia's size?
DYBUL: Well, Australia's around the 11th. contributor to the Global Fund. I think it's worth pointing out that since the beginning, Australia's contributed around $400 million over 12 years. At that same time, the Global Fund's invested over four billion in the Asia-Pacific region, so it's a pretty good investment case for having resources that come back globally through a multilateral organisation to have a benefit in this areas, which impacts on the people of Australia. And there's multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, very difficult to treat, that comes from Papua New Guinea to Queensland.
The last time I was here, there were three or four cases that had already come over. Malaria-resistance is occurring in Mekong Valley and there's concern that could down, so there's good humanitarian reasons for Australia to be engaged in these areas, but it's also enlightened self-interest because it actually affects the people of Australia directly.
LAM: And the Global Fund, of course, hopes to raise some 15-billion dollars by the replenishment deadline in December. Are you optimistic?
DYBUL: I'm very optimistic. We've seen some remarkable contributions and we're in a tough financial situation globally, but the United Kingdom recently announced a-billion pound commitment, which 1.65 billion dollars currently, depending on the exchange rate. The US Government, President Obama with support of both Republicans and Democrats, have endorsed 1.65 billion dollars for one year in 2014. France has renewed its strong commitment to remain the second largest contributor. Sweden and Norway increased their contributions by 25 per cent. So we're seeing significant increases in financially difficult times.
And the reason is we're in a unique moment in history, we actually have the scientific knowledge and the on the ground experience from the investments of the ten years to actually see how we can completely control HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, to end them as public health threats. That's quite an opportunity. We've never in the history of the world had that opportunity. This can be the generation that actually ends two plagues that have been around since recorded medical history, TB and malaria and HIV, the modern day Black Plague.
LAM: What about in the Asian region. China has come in for some criticism for not pulling its weight, if you like, not contributing enough?
DYBUL: Well, China actually now finances its own response completely. The Global Fund is trailing off its contributions there, its support grant money there.
China contributes to the Global Fund, relatively small amounts.
LAM: Only about 25 million, I understand?
DYBUL: Correct, but they're looking at co-investing with us in the Mekong Valley, around artemisinin resistance, in African areas where they belong. They're not members of what's called the Organisation of Donors, which Australia is, and while China certainly has a strong economy, they also still have a lot of people in poverty and a lot of problems at home.
Australia's a much stronger country with a much stronger economy.
LAM: Would you like eventually to get a greater commitment from China to bring China onboard the Global Fund?
DYBUL: Over time, certainly, but we're also working closely with Indonesia.
The Chair of our Board of Directors is actually the Minister of Health of Indonesia. I was just there with her. We're also looking to high networth individuals.
An Indonesian man, one person, committed $50 million to the Global Fund.
LAM: Indeed, this is Dr Tahir you're talking about and in fact, the Indonesian Health Minister this week, said that she hopes others will follow suit. How likely is that going to happen?
DYBUL: Quite likely, and Dr Tahir wants to help out and actually Bill Gates is matching Dr Tahir's contribution and has offered to match any high networth individual. So and the US and UK are matching it as well, so Dr Tahir's $50 million is actually $150 million, coming from a single individual and Dr Tahir is committed to gather others from Indonesia and the region to do the same.
LAM: Well as you say, Dr Tahir's gift is the largest single donation to the fund. That's good news obviously for the fund. But what are the biggest challenges that you face as you go round the world negotiating, indeed, dare I say, begging for donations?
DYBUL: Well Dr Tahir's the largest from a non-American. Bill Gates gives the highest number, personally they're at $150 million a year actually.
Challenges really are explaining and having people understand that we're not doing the same thing, we're not just repeating what we've done for the last 10 years, that we're in a historic moment, where we can completely control the three diseases. But to be honest, once people recognise that, they move pretty quickly. And the flipside of that is if we don't act today, I think it would be natural for people to say, well, we'll get back to that in five years when our budgets are stronger.
The data are telling us that we don't have five years to wait. We have new scientific tools that work well as the epidemics are in retreat, but if they start coming back and we have data that's the case, including here in Australia. We don't have the tools and then we'll be saddling the next several generations with dealing with these epidemics, instead of being the generation that ends them.
LAM: So you need to seize the moment, as it were?
DYBUL: We need to seize the moment. We're different from most development organisations, that we were created to be a country-owned support mechanism. We're actually a financing tool, we're not a typical aid organisation. This is the first year in history that low and middle income countries are putting more of their own money in the fight against HIV than all the donors put together. So countries are stepping up, And so we have a wonderful moment now to bring the diseases under control, which means long term costs go way down, because we won't have to maintain these programs for generation after generation and countries are increasing their own contributions. So it's a perfect storm of opportunity for people to stay involved in this and stay committed so that we can get to where we need to be, which is control the epidemics, that the countries will then manage on their own overtime.