Will Canada follow the G7 in the fight to end deadly epidemics?

By: Results Canada Published: 20/09/2022

Written by: Chris Dendys, Executive Director, Results Canada 

20 million reasons why we must.

In 2006, Aaron Sunday from Nigeria was diagnosed with HIV. He was 12 years old. By then, he had been living with the disease for close to four years after being infected with the virus through a blood transfusion. There was more devastating news for the family – Aaron also had tuberculosis (TB), a leading killer of people with HIV. When his peers bonded over sports, studying, and school, Aaron spent his hours in isolation with another adolescent fighting TB like him. The friendship didn’t last long – his friend soon died of TB.    

Aaron’s story isn’t one of defeat, but of hope. He is 27 years old now and a leading global advocate in adolescent health. He isn’t alone in his fight. Earlier this week, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a high-impact multilateral health financing instrument, released its annual Results Report, which details the partnership’s efforts to tackle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and the 50 million lives it saved between 2002 and 2021. Aaron’s life is among the millions. He had timely access to treatment and received psychosocial support at a Global Fund-supported facility. He now continues his fight for his friend who died and others who live and struggle with diseases that are preventable and curable.  

Why should Canada care about Aaron – and why now? On the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, U.S President Joe Biden will host the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment conference. Every three years, these pledging moments serve as a stark reminder of the devastation these epidemics continue to wreak in communities across the world and provide an opportunity for high-income countries to step up and pool contributions.  

This year, the Global Fund is specifically looking to leading industrial nations in the Group of Seven (G7), including Canada, to increase their pledges by 30% from its sixth replenishment. G7 countries Japan and Germany recently pledged their fair share target of what the Global Fund has estimated is the bare minimum needed to turn the needle to progress. Earlier this year, the U.S announced its intention to commit its fair share, totalling USD$6 billion. All eyes are on Canada now, given that Canada has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund since its founding in 2002, and hosted its 2016 replenishment conference. An ambitious pledge would not only be a cause for celebration but would also strengthen Canada’s position as a leader in global health. However, there’s been radio silence from the Prime Minister so far on whether Canada will lead or lag.  

The stakes are huge. The world is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic – disruptions in healthcare have not only stalled progress made across these deadly infectious diseases, but we’ve seen the dial spin backwards. The number of global TB deaths, for example, increased for the first time since 2005 with a staggering 1.5 million deaths in 2020. There were 69,000 more deaths from malaria in 2020, compared to 2019 – with estimates that a child in Africa is dying from this treatable and preventable disease nearly every minute. These infections, borne of gross socioeconomic inequality, disproportionately affect some of the most marginalized communities in the world. The global food shortages and price hikes resulting from the war in Ukraine and climate change have left these communities even more exposed to future health threats. 

The impact of these epidemics on lives and livelihoods may seem distant to Canada, but these pathogens have pandemic potential. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that in global health security, solidarity is not a buzzword. It’s a necessity. The recent uptick in Monkeypox, for example, serves as a grim reminder of the ability of pathogens to mutate and pose challenges. To fight existing and future infectious disease threats, we need to collectively strengthen health and community systems everywhere, making them more inclusive and resilient. As the world’s largest external funder for strengthening health infrastructure, with an annual investment of USD$1.5 billion in 120 countries, the Global Fund can help the world brace for the next pandemic. 

On September 21, the world will gather at the Seventh Global Fund Replenishment Conference in New York. The goal will be to raise USD$18 billion, with Canada’s portion being CAD$1.2 billion. If Canada fails to follow Japan, Germany, and the U.S in meeting its fair share, we risk surrendering the gains we have collectively fought so hard to achieve. We will have to accept that we are effectively abandoning the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to end these diseases. The most devastating impact would be measured in lives lost – 20 million lives.   

As a Canadian who cares and as Aaron’s ally, I’m joining others here and around the world in calling on Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau to prove that we are a country that cares, that stands by our commitment to global solidarity, and that has the vision to reimagine a more equitable healthcare model for the world. There are 20 million reasons for us to step up and fight for what counts


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