Global Fund photo exhibition to show human face of HIV/AIDS | Connect Asia

Global Fund photo exhibition to show human face of HIV/AIDS

Global Fund photo exhibition to show human face of HIV/AIDS

Updated 26 November 2012, 16:11 AEST

After touring major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, a photographic exhibition called Access to Life opens at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum tomorrow.

The exhibition features some 250 photographs which aim to show the human face of HIV/AIDS and highlight the impact of anti-retroviral treatment in 10 developing countries, including India and Vietnam.

The opening comes in the same week as World Aids Day and highlights the work of the Global Fund, which supports AIDS treatment in 147 countries.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Simon Bland, Global Fund chairman

BLAND: And I think it's less now of trying to shock the population. I mean, I think there's a huge success story around the response to an HIV AIDS. It's no longer the inevitable death sentence it was and access to this anti-retroviral treatment that you refer really does change lives. It gives people the hope that they can live pretty much a normal life, get married, have kids, work and that's a huge, huge success. And almost because of that success, people feel that well, the job is now done, but the job is far from done. So this exhibition allows us to move beyond the statistics, to put that human face on the disease, to celebrate the fact that we've made great strides against the disease, but also that there's much more that still needs to be done.

EWART: So the photos, if you like, tell us about how the fight against HIV AIDS at this point, but as you say, people shouldn't run away with the idea that we've reached a safety zone, if you like?

BLAND: Look that's absolutely right. I mean I think the statistics in my head is that there's still 34 million people living across the world with HIV. Fifteen million of those need access today to treatment and about eight million of those are getting treatment, so we've got another seven million people that we ought to put on treatment that we haven't yet done. So a big part of our work is really raising the resources to allow us to do that, to ensure that everybody that needs treatment can get treatment.

EWART: Perhaps we can move onto the whole resource issue, which, of course, is fundamental to the way that the Global Fund operates. And you've recently appointed a new executive director, Mark Dybul, who was previously US global AIDS coordinator to President George W. Bush. So what does he bring to the table?

BLAND: So the Global Fund after ten years has really hadn't made some remarkable progress. It's become a pre-eminent financier of the fight against the three diseases, Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It's gone through some changes over the last year to move, if you like, from this emergency response, to really tackle this great emergency the world is facing, to an organisation that can help manage the chronic illness that is HIV.

Mark has been brought in now to take us through the next five years of the organisation's growth. We know so much more now about what works where and how. We can invest our resources much more strategically and for much more impact on the back of that knowledge and Mark is going to be able to shepherd us through the delivery of our new and ambitious strategy.

EWART: Now, the organisation I think it's fair to say has gone through some choppy waters in recent times. Some donors, Germany, the European Commission suspended funding for a while on the back of media reports talking about huge financial losses and your spending was scaled back as a result of it. What sort of an impact has that negative publicity had on the whole fundraising process of the Global Fund.

BLAND: So what happened, I mean we celebrate the fact that the Global Fund is I think the second most transparent international development organisation in the world. So we take transparency really importantly. We also take a zero tolerance approach to any fraud and mismanagement and corruption. And, so you're right, we had some press articles early in 2011 that caused some donors to retreat if you like. What we've done since then is take a long hard look at our operations. We've evolved a way our business model works, that on the basis of new science as well. We've done a good review of our portfolio. We've looked at 23 per cent of the most risky elements of our portfolio. We've found less than half of one per cent fraud within that thorough assessment. We have an independent office of the inspector-general. We take a zero tolerance approach to fraud. The greater risk is inaction. If we didn't disperse any money, they'd be no risk, but they'd be no impact. So getting the balance right is crucially important.

The donors are back, they're confident. I think the board meeting that we had last week where we recruited Mark Dybul, as our new executive director and made decisions on further improving our business model show that. But next year's going to be a crucial year for us. Next year is a year that we're going to go out and ask donors, existing and new, for more resources to continue to fight, continue to scale up the fight and to sustain and protect the gains we've made so far.

EWART: Now, you've made the point about transparency and yet the Inspector General, John Parsons, who was the man who brought this question of losses to the media's attention at least. He's since lost his job and yet the reasons have been somewhat lost in the mist and not too much has been said about why you've dismissed him?

BLAND: So, I think our press release said exactly why and the time had come for John to move on. His performance wasn't satisfactory and the board has reiterated its absolute commitment to an independent, professional, well resourced and office of the Inspector General. We're putting in interim arrangements and we'll recruit a new Inspector General. So there's been no change to the architecture, there's been no change to the philosophy, but our newly created,semi-independent Audit and Ethics Committee presented a report to the Board that said the time was now to make some changes.

And so this is all part of a suite of reforms that we've taken the Global Fund through over the course of 2012 that says we recognise the massive success we've made over the last ten years. We need to be a learning organisation, we need to evolve and change for the next decade and I think we've put in place a great foundation for 2013.

EWART: Now, you're in Australia as we mentioned to preside at the opening of the exhibition, but I imagine there are other reasons behind your visit too. I mean will you be talking to Australian Government and, if so, what will you be talking about?

BLAND: So I was here I think two or three weeks ago for the Malaria 2012 Conference and I met with Peter Baxter there and we talked about an AUSAid's relationship with the Global Fund and it's been a good and strong relationship since the creation of the fund. And indeed, before I took on the role of the Chair, I was a board member that represented both the United Kingdom and Australia in a constituency and so it's a region that's dear to my heart. I started out my professional career as a volunteer in Papua New Guinea in the early 80s, so it's great to come back for that. And look, Peter Baxter was pretty clear to me. The region is really important for Australia. If the Global Fund is going to invest all its resources in Africa and surely it should invest a lot of its resources in Africa, then it would cause some difficulties for Australia, because there are real challenges here and in the region.

So as the Global Fund changes the way it does business, it's looking to invest more strategically. It remains a Global Fund. And so it will continue to support programs in the region and it will continue to work closely with Australia and with AUSAid in doing so.

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