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Microsoft founder Bill Gates sits in a hotel room after an interview at the Willard Hotel in Washington. (LOUIE PALU FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Microsoft founder Bill Gates sits in a hotel room after an interview at the Willard Hotel in Washington. (LOUIE PALU FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

War on HIV, malaria and TB can be won, Gates says as Ottawa boosts aid Add to ...

The long battle to rid the world of three scourges – HIV, tuberculosis and malaria – is slowly being won and significant progress can be expected over the next few years, says Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist and driving force behind the public-private partnership tackling the diseases.

Canada upped its Global Fund commitment Monday – pledging $650-million over the next three years, representing a 30-per-cent increase. “The Canadian increase is very helpful,” said Mr. Gates, adding he expected a 20-per-cent increase worldwide in commitments to the Global Fund.

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“Our government is proud to stand with the Global Fund so that the next generation will not have to face the devastation caused by HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” Christian Paradis, Minister for International Development, said in announcing the commitment.

Mr. Gates, the founder of Microsoft, says it’s not just good charity. “Put simply: The Global Fund isn’t just one of the kindest things people have ever done for each other – it’s also one of the smartest investments the world has ever made,” Mr. Gates said in advance of a two-day gathering that drew leaders from around the world to Washington.

“We’re making good progress against all three diseases,” he said, adding that he hoped within six years – two funding cycles – that both a cure and a vaccine for HIV/AIDS would be achieved. “The malaria death rate is down quite a bit and new drugs are coming,” said Mr. Gates, who has made health care in the developing world his main priority.

Mr. Gates had spent hundreds of millions over the past few years, making up the shortfall left by shrinking government spending, but on Monday he said the latest fundraising round looked like a significant success.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $500-million in matching funding on Monday, challenging other private donors to step up.

“We’re encouraging new types of people to get in,” he said.

In Ottawa, “Canada will continue to set ambitious goals and, with the help of partners such as the Global Fund, we will continue to achieve them,” said Mr. Paradis, who had high praise for the effectiveness of the fund. “Canada was one of the pioneers in investing in this fund,” he said, adding it is saving roughly 100,000 lives a month. “We have an opportunity to push even harder to eradicate these three illnesses.”

The Global Fund is seeking $15-billion (U.S.) for its next three years of operation.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged up to $5-billion for the Global Fund if the rest of the world’s nations collectively give $10-billion.

“Don’t leave our money on the table,” said Mr. Obama in a challenge to other countries on the first evening of the conference.

For Stephen Harper’s government, “maternal, newborn and child health is the flagship priority for Canada’s international engagement and the Global Fund is one of our key partners,” Mr. Paradis said. “A window of opportunity now exists to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to a point where they are no longer public-health threats in developing countries,” he added.

Amy Bartlett, executive director for RESULTS Canada, said: “This increased contribution means that the world’s poorest will now have access to the life-saving interventions they need.”

The Global Fund has increased access to life-saving drugs for those most in need and has saved an estimated 8.7 million lives to date.

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