Global Fund approves disease payouts amid fears for Africa

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The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria on Wednesday approved 1.7 billion dollars for projects against the diseases, amid warnings that some hard-hit African countries were being left out.

"This funding will allow us to reach millions of additional people with prevention, treatment and care," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopian Health Minister and chairman of the Global Fund's board.

"It shows that even in hard economic times, we can continue to expand the fight against the three diseases," he added in a statement after the board approved 79 new grants over two years.

Executive director Michel Kazatchkine claimed that the latest round of grants was "fully funded", allowing the UN-backed body to continue to expand the fight against the three diseases.

More than 40 percent of the amount went towards projects to tackle HIV/AIDS.

However, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said several "ambitious proposals" to tackle HIV/AIDS in the hardest hit sub-Saharan countries were turned down.

They included additional projects in Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe that could have scaled up early treatment, cut deaths and "aggressively" reduced the spread of the virus, according to the medical charity.

"It is crucial that countries ensure the money is used to fund the most sound treatment approaches and governments are accountable, but without additional funding, these countries will not be able to turn the tide on AIDS," said MSF doctor Jennifer Kohn.

In October, donor countries, private foundations and companies pledged 11.7 billion dollars over three years for the Fund at a regular replenishment conference in New York.

However, MSF described those donor pledges as "weak" and urged Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, which failed to come up with money, as well as Germany, to help plug an 8.3 billion dollar deficit.

The Global Fund, a public-private partnership, has invested 21.7 billion dollars in 150 countries since it was created in 2002, after being kickstarted by donations from software billionaire Bill Gates.

© 2010 AFP

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