12 November 2007The United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today approved $1.1 billion of new grants to be handed out over the next two years and agreed to allocate another $130 million to five projects it had already started supporting. The United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today approved $1.1 billion of new grants to be handed out over the next two years and agreed to allocate another $130 million to five projects it had already started supporting. This is the first time since the Fund was established in 2002 that it has passed $1 billion mark in approving new grants, the Executive Director, Michel Kazatchkine, said after a meeting of the Fund’s Board in Kunming, China. “We all know there is a tremendous need for investments in health,” said Dr. Kazatchkine. “These new grants show that need is increasingly turned into high-quality demand for resources. This is a trend we must develop further.” Projects devoted to tackling AIDS account for 48 per cent of approved proposals this year, while malaria projects comprise 42 per cent and tuberculosis projects 10 per cent. Fund officials said they were impressed by the scope and quality of much of the proposals submitted, particularly in the area of combating malaria. Almost half of grant applications were approved this year, up from an average of 40 per cent in the previous six rounds of grants. Rajat Gupta, the Chair of the Fund’s Board, said it was looking forward to scaling up the fight against the three diseases. Nearly a fifth of the approved funding is being contributing to the large-scale strengthening of national health-care systems, such as by upgrading infrastructure and buying new equipment, he noted. For the first time, a project focused on the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank and the Gaza Strip – a HIV prevention programme – has received money from the Fund. In total, 73 new grants were approved and five others that had reached the end of their five-year life were renewed. More than 80 per cent of overall funding went to projects based in low-income countries, with the majority in Africa. Since its founding the Fund has now awarded over $10 billion to projects in 136 countries as it battles the three diseases of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, which collectively claim more than 6 million lives every year. Programmes backed by the Fund are estimated to have averted the deaths of 2 million people by providing AIDS for 1.1 million people, tuberculosis treatment for 2.8 million people and distributing some 30 million insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria.