Not long ago, the world watched AIDS rip apart entire communities. Paralyzed by confusion, fear, and a lack of solutions, the global community stood by helpless as the epidemic devastated a generation while orphaning another. Malaria killed young children and pregnant women unable to protect themselves from mosquitoes or access the right medicine. Tuberculosis unfairly afflicted the poor, as it had for millennia.

When my career as a public health bureaucrat began, these diseases seemed unbeatable. There were – and remain – many challenges. But the showstopper was a lack of vision. In 2002, many believed treatment in Africa was not possible. Especially for HIV. A former British prime minister famously said, “Never trust experts.”

There are always many reasons not to do something. It takes vision to see possibility, and then you have to make sure that the job gets done. I am privileged to have spent my career as part of the global health partnership that came together to fight back. By working together, by pooling resources and expertise, and by involving people affected by the diseases, including civil society, the private sector, and governments, we have made progress way beyond what seemed possible. Fifteen years ago, we were fighting just to stop the dying. Today, we have the tools to end these epidemics for good if we can maintain global solidarity for this vision and continue to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape.

Last month, the Global Fund issued a results report showing that health investments made through the Global Fund partnership have saved seventeen million lives, expanding opportunity and achieving greater social justice for families and communities worldwide. Even better, the report shows that advances in science and innovative solutions are accelerating progress at an ever-faster rate, getting us on track to reach twenty-two million lives saved by the end of next year. However, we must remember that many more lives are still at risk. We must seize the momentum, embrace ambition, and move faster to end HIV, TB, and malaria. Let’s remember that a magnificent display of the human spirit has gotten us this far. The greatest reward for this collective achievement lies not in the massive number—seventeen million—but in the impact every life saved has for a loved one, a family, a friend, a community, and a nation.

A life saved from AIDS is a mother who can raise her daughter and teach her to stay safe from HIV. A life saved from TB is a father who can return to work and earn a living to support his family. A life saved from malaria is a child who thrives beyond her fifth birthday and becomes a doctor, or perhaps the next president of Liberia.

Mark Dybul is the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Dybul has worked on HIV and public health for more than 25 years as a clinician, scientist, teacher, and administrator. He previously served as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and the head of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief from 2006–2009.
Photos: The Global Fund/John Rae

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