Humanitarian organizations that work to reduce the toll of three of the world's killer diseases are watching anxiously for news that Canada will commit its fair share toward the international effort to eradicate them.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper travels to New York City this week where he will co-host a United Nations event focusing on health challenges facing women and children around the world.
While he is there, Canadian groups including Dignitas International, which provides treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, say they hope he will announce how much Canada will contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years – and they hope the pledge will be substantial.
The Global Fund is asking for a combined commitment from all the world's nations of $15-billion (all figures in U.S. dollars) to carry it through to 2016.
Countries including France, Germany, Switzerland and the Nordic nations have already made pledges. The U.S. said in April that it would give $1.65-billion a year, which amounts to about $5.21 annually per person in that country.
And the United Kingdom said this week that it would give up to $533-million every year. That's more than $8 annually for each U.K. resident.
Canada has yet to step up to the plate.
"We are very concerned that Canada has not taken a leadership role in announcing its commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria," Marilyn McHarg, President and CEO of Dignitas, said this week in an e-mail. "The world is watching and waiting for Canada to step up and take action on this front. The lives of millions hang in the balance."
It is widely believed that Mr. Harper, whose 2010 G8 initiative aimed for improvements to maternal and child health, will reveal how much Canada is willing to spend while he is in New York. The government did not respond to questions this week about if and when this country's Global Fund commitment would be made public.
Canada has chipped in $150-million (Canadian) in each of the past three years with some additional contributions. That is less than $5 per person and the aid agencies say we should be doing more. They want Canada to increase its annual contribution to at least $250-million.
The fight against HIV/AIDS is at a tipping point and full replenishment of the Global Fund could avert than a million new HIV infections annually through rapid scale-up of antiretroviral therapy, according to Dignitas.
With the Conservative government intent on slaying a multi-billion-dollar deficit by 2015, there is concern that fiscal priorities will trump international co-operation.
Hélène Laverdière, the NDP critic for international development, said a contribution of $750-million over three years would be a significant increase but it would also be a wise investment. If the Global Fund was unable to continue its work with HIV/AIDS, experts estimate the international costs could be as high as $47-billion, said Ms. Laverdière.
And "when we are preventing or curbing tuberculosis around the world," she said, "we are also preventing the negative impact on ourselves because tuberculosis travels the world."
Kirsty Duncan, the Liberal critic, said there has been significant progress around the world in fighting AIDS, malaria and TB and that shows the Globe Find is working. "The Global Fund needs stable funding from humanitarian partners like Canada to success in its objectives," said Ms. Duncan.
Ms. McHarg said that, in developing countries like Malawi, the Global Fund is the primary mechanism for financing essential HIV medicines.
A UNAIDS Global Report released on Monday says the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy has enabled more than 10-million people to gain access to life-saving medicines globally.
"While this is an important milestone, it is much too early to celebrate," said Ms. McHarg. "Last year alone, 2.3-million people were infected with HIV and today 18-million people who are eligible for treatment remain without access to HIV medicines. This treatment gap is appalling."