ince the start of the AIDS epidemic, 78 million people have become infected with HIV and approximately 38 million have died. But HIV/AIDS is more than a health issue. Particularly in the developing world, those affected are increasingly women and children. “With HIV/AIDS in the hardest hit countries,” says Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, “80 percent of new infections affect girls.”

Children and pregnant women also remain particularly vulnerable to malaria. Although a global response has reduced the disease’s footprint to 97 countries, half of the world’s population remains at risk. While malaria may not be a problem in Canada, the country is not immune to infectious diseases, with vulnerable communities hit especially hard.

“The reality is that, particularly with HIV, these are more than medical conditions because the driver is often social inequities, meaning vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected,” says Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. “We see this even in Canada, whether it is tuberculosis disproportionately affecting aboriginals or HIV/AIDS and the LGTBQ community.”

On World AIDS Day, however, we can be proud Canada is helping women, children, and vulnerable populations by leading the global fight against infectious diseases.

Eradicate infectious diseases

A financing institution dedicated to ending the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics, the Global Fund serves as a convenor in the battle against the three diseases, bringing the private and public sectors together to provide funding and tailored support to individual countries being affected.

In support of eradicating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030, Canada hosted the Global Fund Fifth Replenishment Conference in Montreal this September. The event raised $12.9 billion USD in commitments covering the years 2017–2019, potentially saving up to 8 million lives and averting 300 million new infections.

“Global health is very important, and cooperation and coordination between governments is essential,” says Minister Bibeau, who co-hosted the event with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We believe we can end these three epidemics by the year 2030 if we work together effectively.” 

The organization counts on the replenishments, each of which raises financing for a three-year cycle, to carry out its mandate. The Fifth Replenishment is part of the ongoing global $41 billion USD investment toward saving 30–32 million lives by 2020 and eradicating the three diseases completely by 2030.

Minister Jane Philpott in Durban, South Africa

Canada leads the global fight

“It was a proud moment seeing Canada play such an important role in hosting a conference that has really come at an important time in the development of these pandemics,” says Minister Philpott. “We want to be a critical participant in this effort, working with our international partners to coordinate a global response to the issue.”

Canada has been one of the largest single contributors to the Global Fund, committing $800 million USD in this round alone. Canada’s leadership is both an acknowledgement of the dangers posed by malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and a call to action for all Canadians to join the global health initiative to eradicate infectious diseases.

“As Canadians, we have a responsibility to consider vulnerable populations and a commitment to equity and justice in health care,” says Philpott. “As a country, we are dedicated to being a voice that responds to medical conditions where there are significant socio-economic drivers, knowing that ill health anywhere is a threat to wellness everywhere.”