A call to action for the private sector: For better health, “It’s now or never”

Friday, 21 June 2013 09:24 GMT

Julian Rojas, coordinator of the Harm Reduction for Injecting Drug Users, shows the needles used by drug addicts users at a drug den in Ciudad Juarez December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

To make good on the promise of successful public-private partnership, the corporate sector needs to be at the table

By Deborah Derrick, President of Friends of the Global Fight

The annual GBCHealth Conference draws together business leaders from around the world to build support for health. Topping the agenda this year? The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world’s largest health financier.

Opening last month’s conference was Ray Chambers, UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria, who is helping keep the world on track to reach its critical health goals. He put a new twist on the old real estate mantra to explain the road to success:

“Global Fund, Global Fund, Global Fund.”

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has financed prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in more than 150 countries, working with partners on the ground to save millions of lives. The Geneva-based financier was designed to engender collaboration with governments, civil society, the private sector, and communities living with the diseases. The organization is now leading the charge toward controlling these three killer epidemics, armed with recent advances in science, epidemiology, and implementation knowledge. But it needs financial resources to fuel the fight.

Donor governments have long been the Global Fund’s primary supporters, with the United States chief among them. This year the organization is mobilizing resources, inviting its donors to make pledges to help battle the diseases, with an ambitious global target of raising $15 billion. But governments can’t shoulder this burden alone. To make good on the promise of successful public-private partnership, the corporate sector needs to be at the table.

Dr. Brian Brink, who is Chief Medical Officer for global mining company Anglo American, heads the Private Sector Delegation to the Global Fund Board. Under his leadership, Brink’s own company has been cited as a model for business engagement on health, both as a contributor to the Global Fund and as host to one of the world’s largest employer-based HIV treatment programs. Brink came before the crowd at GBCHealth last month, asking his colleagues to step up support and play an even more active role in reaching the $15 billion goal.

His goal is clear: together, the private sector should contribute $1.5 billion to the Global Fund between 2014 and 2016. Another way to look at it is 500 companies giving $1 million each for three years.

Throughout the last decade, dozens of companies have contributed assets, technical expertise, human resources, and commodities to the work of the Global Fund and its partners. In combination with other resources, these contributions have helped drive unprecedented progress in recent years: scaling up HIV treatment more than twenty-fold, cutting malaria cases in half, and decreasing the tuberculosis mortality rate.

But the fight against these diseases is far from finished. And that’s why leaders like Chambers and Brink are calling on businesses to double down on their commitments.

Raising $1.5 billion is a tall order. Can the private sector afford to do it? With the lives of countless employees, potential consumers, and global citizens hanging in the balance, perhaps the better question is if the private sector can afford not to. As Brink put it, if we want to build a healthier more prosperous future, “it’s now or never.”