International leaders highlighted the need for the current generation to combat the global HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis epidemics in Copley Formal Lounge Wednesday.
Ambassador Mark Dybul (CAS ’85, MED ’92), the executive director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, stated that there is an unprecedented opportunity for the current generation to face these diseases and mitigate their effect on future generations.
“So the real question is, do we want to be the first generation that’s had the ability to control these epidemics?” Dybul said. “Or do we want to be the generation that doesn’t and so that the next generation and the next generation and then the next generation possibly have to continue to deal with these diseases as public health threats?”
Dybul, who is a former Distinguished Scholar and co-director of the Global Health Law Program at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said that without action now, it might be too late as resources to contain future outbreaks will become scarce.
“If the infection rates start going back up, I don’t know that we have the science and I know we don’t have the money to bring them back under control,” Dybus said.
Georgetown University Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff also acknowledged the importance of immediate action.
“We have a choice to invest now, or pay forever,” Banchoff said.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama had announced the United States’ commitment to up to $5 billion in AIDS relief efforts.
“From the standpoint of the Obama administration, we are very happy with the results of the replenishment conference. Donors pledged approximately $12 billion yesterday,” The Global Fund Vice-Chair of Finance and Operations John Monahan (CAS ’83, LAW ’87) said. Monahan also acknowledged the importance of The Global Fund and its role in controlling these diseases.
A panel of speakers also addressed The Global Fund’s new approach to giving assistance to countries. The Global Fund hopes to give more power to the countries fighting these epidemics, rather than dealing with the diseases directly.
“I would hope this … dialogue is a way for us to say this is about mutual responsibility,” The Global Fund Chair of the Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee Todd Summers said. “It’s not about the U.S. and Canada and Germany coming to fix Nigeria’s problems.”
Mutual accountability and responsibility are both major parts of The Global Fund’s change in strategy. The aim is to be partners rather than encroaching on the sovereignty of other countries, Dybul said.
“If we respect them as human beings and as partners…that makes a difference,” Dybul said.
However, with mutual accountability comes the issue of who would hold actors responsible.
“The challenge here in this new paradigm, is to figure out who holds that accountability stick and how do you arm them to use it,” Summers said.