For years the world has been made aware of the devastation of HIV/Aids, with millions of lives claimed and millions more people affected. The world has been less aware that in just the past few years, millions of lives have been rescued.
In 2001, when the G8 met under the Italian presidency in Genoa, the world's most powerful countries established the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, launching an unprecedented multilateral effort against the three diseases that mainly affect the world's poor, and mainly in Africa. Fund has supported programmes that have saved four million lives.
I am especially concerned about women and children, because in most parts of the world, they tend to come last in line. Although we still have a long way to go to protect mothers and children from HIV, effective Aids treatment has enabled over half a million mothers to avoid transmitting HIV to their children. Millions of children orphaned by Aids receive food, education and social support through programmes backed by the Global Fund.
This amazing turnaround, as well as impressive progress in fighting malaria, TB, and vaccine-preventable diseases over the last few years, have given hundreds of millions of people around the world new hope that we can finally control these deadly diseases. Recently, I visited Burkina Faso and saw health clinics that now offer HIV tests, treatment and care for pregnant women. The doctors and nurses I met spoke of renewed hope in communities and of a revolution that is taking place in some of theirhealth services now that drugs are available and doctors and nurses can actually help people get well – rather than just try to relieve suffering.
This revolution is beginning to transform Africa, yet much of the progress made in reducing poverty over the past decades is under threat from the effects of the global economic crisis. Health investments reduce inequities, however, and at a time of economic hardship, they are more important than ever to preserve social stability. We have made inspiring and dramatic progress, but this journey has just begun: over 300,000 children – mostly in Africa – are still infected with HIV every year at or after birth, something that is unacceptable, when we have cheap and effective ways to prevent mothers from transmitting HIV to their babies. That is why I have agreed to focus on this particular inequality by serving as a global ambassador for the prevention of HIV in women and children. Knowing that millions remain in need while effective interventions exist, I am more determined than ever to add my voice to the global effort to fight Aids and other infectious diseases. As the G8 meets in L'Aquila, leaders should feel proud of the revolution in global health they started eight years ago. I hope they will celebrate their achievements by expanding their investment in saving lives and reducing inequities. It is not only possible – it is happening, it works, and there is much more still to do.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, primera dama de Francia y embajadora para la protección de mujeres y niños frente al VIH/sida del Fondo Mundial de lucha contra el sida, la tuberculosis y la malaria.