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With the recent international strides made in the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the 2001 Summit of the Eight in Genoa, will strive to build upon the momentum generated and seek translate it into firm financial commitments. Further, the leaders will look to measure their progress over the last year as at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit Meeting 2000, they agreed that strengthening countermeasures against the three infectious diseases - HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria - would be made with specific numerical targets in mind.
The G8 leaders well understand and recognize that communicable diseases - particularly HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria - are themselves major \i causes\i0 of poverty. A collective response to the threats posed by these epidemics is crucial, as economic and physical security - not just of individuals and communities - but of nations and continents is at stake.
With the total number of people killed from the AIDS epidemic reaching an alarming 22 million, the global fight against the disease will no doubt be one of the central issues for discussion when the Summit of the Eight convenes in Genoa.
However, talks surrounding the international community\rquote s long-term battle against AIDS at this years summit, will be under the inspiration of a recent historic UN declaration on the global approach to fighting AIDS, that was generated by the June 25-27 2001 UN General Assembly Session on HIV/AIDS.
The assembly called the global HIV/AIDS epidemic "a global emergency" and pledged to establish a US$10-billion UN fund to halt the disease. Italian officials, have set a target of US$1-billion for this next year, and it appears that the G8 countries alone will be successful in meeting that target. The summit in Genoa, may signal the achievement of the first year $1-billion fund, less than a month after the target was established.
The United States has led the way, setting aside US$200-million for the funds first year, with its congressional leaders looking to add another US$750-million by year two. Look for its neighbor to the north, Canada, to announce its donation of US$100-million when the Genoa summit convenes.
Japan has also pledged US$200million over an undefined period of time, whilst Britain has guaranteed its US$200-million over a five year span. The French and German governments have earmarked a total of US$254 million- US$129m and US$125m respectively.
The global commitment to combat the disease since its 1981 outbreak has never seen such a strong and unified call to action, in the area that speaks the loudest: global pocketbooks.
Look for the G8 leaders to continue along the tones of the UN declaration, focusing on the need for leadership in national and international levels as well as the partnership needed between governments, private companies, civil society and international organizations- especially NGO's who have been at the front-lines of fighting this disease from the very beginning.
The Genoa summit will be an opportunity, not only for the leaders to discuss and further upon the recent UN declaration, but it will also be an opportunity for many of the G8 countries and their leaders to broadcast their aggregate contributions towards the fund.
Since the 1998 pledge by the leaders of the G8 in Birmingham, UK to support the Roll Back Malaria Initiative proposed by the World Health Organization, there has been a more concentrated focus on efforts to curtail the number of malaria deaths, which is estimated at a horrifying 30 000 a day.
However, a recent report released by the WHO on April 18, 2001, notes that Malaria is on the rise again and they have, together with the World Bank, UNICEF and the UNDP, called for more international action in the fight against Malaria. Such results lead to the obvious conclusion that perhaps promises of international aid are not enough, and now it is time for serious action to be taken. The G8 leaders will no doubt be faced with having to look at their commitment and financial involvement in this battle against the disease, and from that discern a course of action that would meet the ambitious challenges of the Roll Back Malaria Initiative , which set out to halve malaria deaths halved by 2010.
The G8 Summit in Genoa, comes on the heals of a June 22, 2001 announcement that saw the European Malaria Vaccine Initiative, USAID, and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative jointly pledge to develop Malaria vaccines for the developing world. This will give the leaders a framework on which to build, and measure their progress.
Tuberculosis, is regarded as the most common infection in the world, which claims the lives of over 2 million people annually. With infection rates increasing around the world, after a 40 year period of steady decline, the entire international community, and specifically the G8 leaders must be on alert.
The G8 leaders' commitment in recent years to a "massive effort" to reduce by 50% the global burden of tuberculosis morbidity and mortality by 2010 was a highly ambitious challenge. A challenge that the leaders at the summit of the Eight will have work towards in Genoa.
In a report released on April 23 2001, the WHO and UNAIDS, warned that "Tuberculosis (TB) cases in Africa will likely double over the next decade as a consequence of the increased spread of HIV and the under-funding of strategies effective in curing TB." Thus, the recent landmark achievements in the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic will no doubt reflect enormously on the fight against TB. In essence, a victory against AIDS would also mean tremendous strides in reducing deaths at the hands of Tuberculosis. Look for the leaders of the G8 to highlight the connections between the diseases and hence demonstrate, how the fight against infectious diseases is being won.
NOTE ON HIV/AIDS, MALARIA & TUBERCULOSIS: The September 28 2000 Round table on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, which was convened by the European Commission, called for "bold changes" and the formulation of an agenda for the next decade. The Round table meetings also concluded that adequate financial support was a key concern and that efforts to bring greater sponsorship on board must be undertaken.
Prepared by: Salimah Ebrahim, University of Toronto G8 Research Group, June 2001.
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