Support for Global Fund imperative as U.S. tries to save lives from TB, malaria, AIDS

Idaho Statesman

By John Thompson - July 17, 2019 04:10 PM, Updated July 17, 2019 05:41 PM

Before I was pastor of The Cornerstone Church, I spent a year with at-risk kids in Thailand. There, I witnessed the systemic impacts of poverty. My faith calls me to uplift the vulnerable, in Boise and in Thailand. That’s why I’ve become an advocate for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which provides funding to 120 nations.

The Global Fund is an amazing investment by the U.S. and other nations. It has saved the lives of more than 27 million people since 2002. It has led the world in cutting HIV/AIDS deaths in half since 2005. Since 2000, there has been a 37 percent decline in TB deaths and a 60 percent decline in malaria deaths globally. We lead the world in this effort: With every $1 the U.S. commits, we require $2 in matching investment from the global community.

Thailand has made tremendous strides over the past decade. By expanding treatment and HIV testing, Thailand has a one percent prevalence rate of HIV in the general population, halved since 2000. The majority of resources financing the HIV/AIDS and TB responses now come from Thailand itself. But the burden of tuberculosis remains high, with more than 108,000 cases in 2017. While there has been a 20 percent reduction in malaria cases, growing resistance to malaria drug treatments has become a concern.

It’s imperative we stay ahead of these diseases so we don’t lose covered ground.

Congress has the opportunity this year to make major progress against these diseases in Thailand and beyond. We can step up the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria with a modest increase to our previous commitments. The U.S. can help the Global Fund reach its $14 billion fundraising goal for the next three years, which will save 16 million more lives and avert 234 million infections.

Last year, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, supported the bill extending the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (launched by George W. Bush) and the requirement of other nations to give $2 for every $1 we provide. We were grateful for his leadership to give other countries an incentive to step up with us to end HIV/AIDS.

This summer, Risch has the opportunity to support a modest increase for the Global Fund and showcase his leadership for humanitarian assistance as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Senate will soon consider a $1.56 billion annual U.S. contribution to the fund for fiscal years 2020-2022 in the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs 2020 funding bill.

As Christians, we believe that supporting global health is not just smart and economical; it’s the right thing to do. Our foreign assistance accounts for less than 1 percent of our entire budget.

We stand with the marginalized in Thailand, Boise and the world to fight systemic effects of poverty – be it human trafficking, hunger or disease. We know the Global Fund will lift up and save the lives of millions.

John Thompson is senior pastor of The Cornerstone Church in Boise.

Jennifer Dyer