My colleagues at the Foundation remind me, time and time again, that I haven't written a new thank you letter to our supporters in years. They harass me willfully. They grow increasingly impatient. The problem is they're right, because your financial support at this moment means more than ever before. So this constitutes my penance.
Cutbacks in global health, particularly women's health, are doing severe damage to families and communities across Africa where the AIDS pandemic is rooted. In our own limited fashion, we have to try to compensate for the turmoil this has caused.
But in fact, it's much more than that.
Further shocking, in the grand scheme of things, was the information that there are 6,200 new infections every week amongst young women and girls. I repeat: every week. The vulnerability of women has been the most brutal truth of HIV since the pandemic emerged over thirty years ago. Misogyny lies at the heart of it, and somehow we've never been able to fashion programs of prevention that would put an end to the carnage.
But the worst revelation in the UNAIDS report, by far, was the decline in international funding. Between 2017 and 2018, money for care, prevention and treatment of HIV declined by a billion dollars. The toll it takes at the grassroots is heartbreaking. Nor are there signs of a turnaround. The primary source of global dollars is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. For the period 2021 to 2023 inclusive, it has asked the donors for at least 14 billion dollars. It sounds like a lot and it is, but the Fund itself says that the total required is $32 billion, so there's a shortfall of $18 billion! The Fund refuses to ask for what is needed to bring an end to the pandemic.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with NGOs like the Stephen Lewis Foundation to fill some part of the gap, however miniscule. It leaves us with the most profound feelings of gratitude for the contribution you've made. There are no words....
Several years ago, UNAIDS made a dreadful mistake. They fashioned a public relations program based on the mantra "The End of AIDS". They were certain that this would prompt donors to contribute more. They were wrong. It actually lulled donors into a false sense of complacency. Now the women, men and children of Africa are paying the price.
With your support, you have saved lives, provided hope and helped turn the tide. Please see that as your legacy of social justice, human rights, compassion and decency. The beauty and strength of the Foundation is that it works entirely with community-based organizations, and the world has come to understand that support for the grassroots will one day lead to an end of the pandemic. But unlike others, we're under no illusion about the battle ahead. With your contribution, we're fighting side by side.