Impact of COVID-19 in the spotlight during Global Fund’s 45th Board Meeting

“The Global Fund has been a game changer, but now the game has changed,” expressed Donald Kaberuka, Global Fund Board Chair. 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been at the forefront of the fight against these three diseases, and last year it stepped up its game by contributing to the fight against COVID-19. The Board approved more than US$1 billion to support countries’ responses to COVID-19 in 2020. The Fund has been able to adapt quickly and leverage its expertise and capacity to address the outbreak of this novel infectious disease. Nonetheless, the massive knock-on effect of COVID-19 on the progress made against AIDS, TB and malaria highlights the urgent need to be better prepared to respond to future pandemics.

Global Fund’s post-2022 Strategy

The Board is in the final stretch of developing the Fund’s post-2022 Strategy. How does it make sure that the Fund is prepared to deliver on its core mission in the new reality shaped by COVID-19?  

Meeting virtually on 11-12 May 2021, the Board focused – almost exclusively – on the Fund’s performance and its Strategy moving forward, in light of the challenges presented by COVID-19. The Board praised the Fund’s response thus far, but it also acknowledged that more and different things needed to be done to better prepare for the future and complete the fight for elimination of AIDS, TB and malaria. 

At the opening of the 45th Global Fund Board Meeting, Donald Kaberuka, Chair of the Global Fund Board, noted: 

“Our mission to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030 is as relevant as it was 20 years ago. It is only the context and environment around us that has shifted beyond measure, and we have to adjust.”

Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, highlighted how the Fund can use its capacity in fighting pandemics to respond to this novel virus, saying:

“The Global Fund was created as a mechanism to respond to pandemics. We have learned a huge number of lessons about how to effectively respond to pandemics … But COVID-19 has knocked us back across all three diseases. We need to think very hard, as we deliver on our mission to end HIV, TB and malaria, about how important it is to protect the communities we are focused on from the threats of other diseases that can completely disrupt our progress on HIV, TB and malaria.”

Private sector prioritizes HIV, TB and malaria 

Sherwin Charles, Co-Founder and CEO of Goodbye Malaria, and Paul Schaper, Executive Director at Merck & Co, represented the Private Sector Constituency at the 45th Board Meeting. In its statement to the Board, the constituency supported the Fund’s continuous focus on ending HIV, TB and malaria and building resilient healthcare systems:  

“Without creating separate workstreams distinct from the focus on AIDS, TB and malaria, the Global Fund can and should explicitly contribute to pandemic preparedness and response through its investments in health system strengthening, including through the ongoing investments in building capacities in disease detection and rapid response and strengthening disease surveillance systems.” 

Next steps on post-2022 Strategy

Deliberations on the Strategy will continue until November 2021, when results will be presented to the Board for final approval. 

The primary goal to end AIDS, TB and malaria remains unchanged, with reemphasized focus on working with and serving the health needs of people and communities. Health systems strengthening, which has always been an element of the Fund’s activities, has proven to be even more important in the context of the pandemic. Considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on the three diseases, the Global Fund Secretariat and Board are analyzing how the Fund’s core strengths concerning the three diseases can be leveraged to build pandemic preparedness and support pandemic response.

Matt RomneyImpact of COVID-19 in the spotlight during Global Fund’s 45th Board Meeting