Korea urged to play bigger role in fighting AIDS, TB, malaria

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 25, 2013 - 21:20
  • Updated : Apr 25, 2013 - 21:20
A global financing institution to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria requested Korea to play a bigger role in international efforts to defeat the diseases that threaten hundreds of millions of lives, especially in poor countries.

“This is a historic opportunity to defeat the three diseases. I am appealing to Korea to consider what Korea wants to contribute to this global effort,” Christoph Benn, external relations director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

He was in Seoul on Monday to meet Health Minister Chin Young and members of the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee to discuss Korea’s increased support for the fund.

Korea has been one of the fund’s donor countries since 2004. The country has contributed around $2 million a year, which accounts for only 0.2 percent of the total funds of $3.4 billion raised by the organization.

Korea has become a major player internationally and needs to find “a renewed sense of global responsibility,” the director said.

“Korea should look at what other countries of similar size and similar kind of economic power are now doing,” he added.

Those countries like Denmark and Belgium contribute more than $10 million a year, according to the Global Fund’s annual report.

The Global Fund is dedicated to promoting both public and private partnerships to fight the three major diseases. It has established partnerships with governments, civil society, the private sector and foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is one of the leading financing mechanisms that have played a crucial role in bringing significant progress in treating the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. The number of people dying from AIDS declined sharply from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.7 million last year, according to the United Nations’ annual report.

Since 2002, the Global Fund-supported programs have provided AIDS treatment for 4.2 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.7 million people and 310 million insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. The fund helped local communities and governments save millions of lives. Particularly, the fund supported 70 percent of all tuberculosis-treated patients in Asia and treated 290 million people for malaria.

The fund has also reached the world’s most politically isolated regime, North Korea. Since 2010, the Global Fund has been operating a five-year humanitarian aid program via UNICEF to help North Koreans suffering from malaria and tuberculosis. The fund has allocated $76 million for the North Korea program that ends in 2015. It doesn’t have plans to expand its support to North Korea for now, he added.

By Cho Chung-un (