Representatives from RESULTS, an anti-poverty non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., are in Idaho in an attempt to drum up support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Global Fund, an international financing organization that started in 2002, is the world’s largest funding source for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria prevention and treatment. Though it is financed by several countries, the United States has always been the leader in both money and support, according to Amanda Beals, the global grassroots expansion manager for RESULTS.
“We are the leader,” Beals said. “If we step back, other countries will do the same. We really need to maintain that leadership.”
Beals, along with Loyce Maturu, an advocate from Zimbabwe who is HIV positive and who survived tuberculosis, are hoping to inform Idahoans about the international issues posed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They also hope to encourage them to petition local politicians to support the Global Fund.
The pair will also meet with staff for Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, at his Boise office. According to Beal, Risch is a key player as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“He is the most important guy in the Senate on these kinds of issues,” she said. “So people in Idaho actually have a really powerful voice.”
A replenishment conference will be held in October to raise money to support the Global Fund for the next three years. The fund is asking for $14 million to maintain operations and hopes the U.S. will provide one-third of that money.
Beals and Maturu are hopeful that by doing on-the-ground volunteer work and informing citizens about the fund and its importance, they can build enough support to put pressure on the current administration to commit to paying the $4.68 billion the fund has requested.
They are focusing much of their energy on Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado — all states with senators on the Foreign Relations Committee.
“We really need those senators to step up and put some pressure on the administration to have more leadership on these global issues,” Beals said.
The pair met with the international studies department at Brigham Young University-Idaho on Thursday to raise awareness for the fund and the diseases it hopes to eradicate.
Maturu, who has been an advocate for the Global Fund for nearly 10 years, said her drive to help has made it easier to tell her story to others.
At a young age, Maturu lost her mother and was diagnosed with both tuberculosis and HIV. She faced verbal abuse from her relatives and stigma from her community. After seeing no way out, she attempted to commit suicide.
However, she was unsuccessful, and she discovered an organization in Zimbabwe funded by the Global Fund that helped her get back on her feet.
“I am only alive today because of the support of the Global Fund in Zimbabwe,” Maturu said. “I had completely lost hope in my life when I managed to get access to treatment.”
Since then, Maturu has been working with children and adolescents living with HIV, many of whom receive medication through the Global Fund, as well as advocating for support of the fund.
Sharing personal stories makes it easier for people to engage and become interested in the work the fund is doing, said Beals, particularly in rural areas like Idaho that are highly impacted by the diseases.
“AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are the leading infectious killers in the world, even though we don’t think about it a lot in the U.S,” she said. “It’s not that people aren’t necessarily interested, but we’re not exposed to it on a daily basis here. Once people are exposed to it, people care. Everywhere, they care about other people.”
Beals said another challenge facing advocates is the fact that many people feel overwhelmed by the vastness and distance of the problem.
“People generally know that there’s big issues across the world that are happening, but the disconnect is in feeling like they can do something about it,” she said. “People are finally starting to understand it as something that’s within their grasp. Having a conversation with your senator can have a huge effect on people’s lives.”
Maturu added, “I think that Idaho really has a big role to play in influencing global health.”