Canada is Leading the Fight to End AIDS, TB and Malaria for Good

 

Introduction by Patrick Bidulka 

McGill University was fortunate to participate in the Global Fund Replenishment conference held in Montreal this September. The Global Fund side event at McGill, organized by the McGill Global Health Programs office, saw a high turn-out of world-class global health researchers and students. With its contribution of nearly $800 million, Canada has repositioned itself as a key contributor to the field of global health, and a stakeholder in the mission of the Global Fund to end HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria for good. However, as the Honorable Jane Philpott said as she addressed the event, these goals will not translate into tangible results until society collectively deems current health disparities as “outrageous, and solvable”. It is outrageous that a third of the world is infected with TB, with the majority of those infected being in developing countries. It is outrageous that here in Canada, we have a TB epidemic concentrated in our Aboriginal communities, where the rate of TB in Indigenous populations is 34 times higher than in non-Indigenous Canadians. It is outrageous that here in Canada, there are 50 new infections of HIV every week, and this rate has not changed in the last two decades. And so, it is these glaring inequalities that must be recognized, and deemed outrageous by more than just researchers and health care workers, but collectively by the global population. Progress has been paralyzed by barriers such as stigma, racism, gender inequality, and prejudice against LGBTQ people. It is not until these basic issues surrounding human rights are resolved that we can truly put an end to AIDS, TB and Malaria. As Mark Dybul, CEO of The Global Fund said at the McGill side event, “To end these diseases, we must become better humans”.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

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Dr. Madhukar Pai & Dr. David Eidelman

As Montreal gears up to host the biggest leaders in global health, it is our hope that Canada will go well beyond provision of international aid, and find a way to harness the abundant scientific talent in Canada. Doing so will not only amplify the financial contributions by Canadians, but also show our global solidarity.

The past year has seen the re-emergence of Canada in the international development arena. In addition to maternal and child health, if there is one area where Canada is showing tremendous leadership, it is in the fight against the “big three” — AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — infections that kill over 3 million people each year.

To tackle the big three, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was created in 2002. The Global Fund raises resources, engages a variety of partners, and invests funds in supporting programs to tackle the epidemics. Programs supported by theGlobal Fund have saved 20 million lives, by providing 9.2 million people with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 15.1 million people with testing and treatment for TB, and 659 million mosquito bed nets to prevent malaria.

Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health.

If the Global Fund is to continue making progress towards ending these epidemics for good, it needs to be replenished by donor governments, private foundations, corporations, and philanthropists — and Canada is showing the world how to get this done!

On September 16-17, 2016, the Government of Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference in Montreal that will bring world leaders to set funding for the next three years. The Global Fund has set a target of raising US$13 billion. Canada has already pledged CAN$785 million, a 20 increase compared to the last round. The USA has pledged up to US$4.3 billion, France has pledged €1.08 billion, and Germany has pledged €800 million. These pledges, hopefully, will inspire others to contribute and meet the target of US $13 billion which can save an additional 8 million lives.

In addition to supporting the Global Fund, the Government of Canada has made a renewed investment of CAN$85 million for the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative, to reach, treat and cure many of the 3.6 million people affected by TB who every year go without proper care. The Government of Canada has also invested inGrand Challenges Canada, an agency that is funding several innovative projects in TB, HIV and Malaria.

We can be proud of all these developments that show commitment and leadership from the Canadian Government. However, in addition to providing development assistance, Canada has much more to offer. Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health. For example, an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian scientists has already attracted international attention.

In the area of HIV, TB and Malaria, Canadian researchers are making valuable contributions. Canada has led the way in identification of anti-retroviral drug targets, development and promotion of the Treatment as Prevention strategy, development and evaluation of new diagnostics, treatment of HIV and hepatitis co-infections, and leadership roles in prestigious societies to influence policy and advocacy.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries.

Canada has a rich history of research in tuberculosis, a disease that still affects our Aboriginal communities. Canadian researchers have identified the genetic basis of susceptibility to TB, used innovative DNA fingerprinting methods to track the epidemic, evaluated novel tests for TB, conducted clinical trials to develop shorter drug therapies, and contributed to international policies. Canadian researchers have identified promising malaria drug targets, documented malaria strain variations, and developed a global molecular surveillance system for drug-resistant malaria.

McGill University and its affiliated hospitals are home to several teams that focus on HIV, TB and parasitic diseases. With over 100 scientists working on infectious diseases, McGill has much to offer in global health, from fundamental science to policy, and, in particular, training of the next generation of researchers. McGill Global Health Programs coordinates the University’s global health work, and is making strategic investments and partnerships to make sure McGill’s faculty and students are actively engaged as global citizens, in solving the biggest global health challenges.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries. We are excited that Canada is showing impressive leadership in global health, and particularly thrilled that the Global Fund Replenishment Conference is being held in Montreal. We hope the Global Fund replenishment targets will be met, and Canadian researchers will be actively engaged to translate the dollars into saved lives.

Madhukar Pai is the Director of McGill Global Health Programs, and the Associate Director of McGill International Tuberculosis Centre. (@paimadhu)

David Eidelman is the Vice Principal of Health Affairs at McGill University, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. (@VPDeanEidelman)

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post. See the original article here.

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