The Canberra Times fun run is on Sunday and many participants will use the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for important causes.
One of the deadlines in that effort is September 16, 2016, when world leaders will gather in Montreal to make their financial pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The Global Fund, a partnership between the private sector, world governments and communities in need, has achieved transformational change in global health few would have thought possible 15 years ago.
By the end of 2016, 22 million lives will have been saved throughout the world. Australia has contributed to a 70 per cent decrease in malaria in our region but the job is not over yet.
In fact, in order to reach the target of eradicating the epidemics, accelerated efforts much like a sprint to the finish, is required.
We are at a tipping point. In recent years Australia has reduced aid funding, which is concerning. Now is not the time to back off. If we pull back, we threaten to lose all the gains we have made and we could go backwards very fast.
The South-East Asia region accounts for 41 per cent of the global burden of TB incidence. Eliminating the disease in our region is critical to ending the global epidemic.
Millions of people in Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific lack access to treatment and testing for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
People are, today, experiencing extreme suffering, financial hardship and death due to these preventable and treatable diseases.
Some may ask how we can afford to look after our neighbours when our own health system is found wanting? The question really is, how can we afford not to? Insufficient action could be more costly than timely investment.
The Global Fund is a strategic solution for Australia and our neighbours. It is by no means, simply a feel good charity. Without strong investment there could be a resurgence of these diseases with potentially huge economic and social costs.
In an increasingly interconnected global community it makes sound political and economic sense to invest into the health systems and countries that feed into our own economy.
Furthermore, it is in Australia’s interests to protect our future health security. With flights in and out of every region of the world, air travel can enable infectious diseases to spread rapidly between countries and continents.
Evidence is mounting that such public/private partnership models are the most effective way to deliver global health. In fact, the Republic of Korea is an excellent example of the success of this model.
Through the improved health of their citizens and improvements in their health system they have progressed from being an aid recipient country to an aid-donor country.
South Korea now financially contributes to the Global Fund and is an increasingly significant trading partner for Australia. Healthy, prosperous neighbours are good for our economy.
This September, the amount that Australia invests into the Global Fund will influence the degree to which the Global Fund reinvests into our region.
For every dollar Australia sows into the Global Fund, another $20 is ploughed into our regional health systems. There are not many investments where one is guaranteed a 20-fold return on the outlay. If that’s not a prudent investment then I don’t know what is.
This month there was another report of TB in northern Queensland, highlighting the need for screening and the risk of a multi-drug resistant disease becoming established in Australia.
Resurgence of previously diminishing diseases and spread to our own backyard are only a complacent attitude away. Through this year’s Canberra Times Fun Run, we are seeking to raise awareness that it is possible to end the epidemics of AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Fifteen years ago there were but a handful of people in the world who thought this was possible. Now it is incorporated into the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development and Australia has pledged to play its role in achieving this.
It is vital that the Australian government pledges a strong and fair contribution, investing into the health systems, human capital and economies of our region.
Canada is pledging more than $600 million to the Global Fund Replenishment this September. What will we do? Australia’s fair share as a global citizen is $300 million over the next three years, that is $100 million per year.
Ros Lindsey has a Masters in Public Health and is a volunteer for RESULTS Canberra, a non-partisan, not-for profit organisation generating the public and political will to end poverty.