Montreal (AFP) - Donors pledged nearly $13 billion on Saturday in the fight to eradicate AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at an international conference.
"It is my great honor to announce that for the fifth replenishment conference for the Global Fund to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, we have reached our goal together," he said at the close of the donors' meeting.
"We have raised almost $13 billion, and in doing so, we have saved eight million lives."
Trudeau hosted the conference, which was attended by several heads of states as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, and pop singer Bono -- who co-founded the nonprofit group ONE, which works to reduce poverty and disease in Africa.
The U2 frontman praised world leaders for coming together to make "the single largest multilateral investment in a global health project in human history."
"We can deliver a knock-out punch to three of the deadliest killers of our time, and today's accomplishment makes that possible," he said.
Created as a public-private initiative, the Global Fund has so far spent $30 billion on programs to fight the three deadly diseases around the world, with most going to Africa.
It has been credited with helping to save 22 million lives and preventing 300 million infections over the past decade as it pursues a UN target of eradicating AIDS by 2030 and the other diseases even sooner.
But it needed to raise another $13 billion to fund its operations over the next three years through 2019.
The United States, which has provided nearly a third of the total funding so far, pledged an additional $4.3 billion.
The second-largest donor, Britain, pledged $1.4 billion, followed by France ($1.2 billion), Germany ($900 million), Japan ($800 million) and Canada ($600 million).
"We have the knowledge and tools to end HIV, TB and malaria by 2030," Ban said. "Let us work together to make this world healthier and better. I count on your strong commitment and leadership."
- 'The tipping point' -
Global Fund executive director Mark Dybul told the conference: "We are the generation that can keep these diseases under control,"
"We are on the right side of the tipping point," he said.
"But the thing about tipping points is they can go in either direction, and these next three years will be absolutely essential to maintain the trajectory to get to the end of TB and malaria and the control of HIV."
Failure to do so now would risk allowing the diseases to come back stronger and in drug-resistant form -- a worrying possibility that world leaders are set to debate at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
Growing drug resistance would cause the costs of treatment to soar. The average price for treating tuberculosis, for example, could jump from $400 per patient now to $15,000 for a drug-resistant version, Dybul said.
Ban warned that the emergence of antimicrobial resistance "threatens our response to all three diseases."
He called on the Global Fund to also join the fight against the "global health threat" drug resistance poses.
Explaining the need for continued research in an interview with AFP, Gates said that "if you keep using the same tools, all the three diseases (develop) resistance mechanisms."
His foundation pledged another $600 million to the fund on top of the $1.6 billion it has contributed since its inception.
Gates advocated simple measures to stem the spread of the diseases, such as forming youth clubs where boys and girls would learn how to avoid contracting HIV, and distributing mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
He also heralded scientific breakthroughs, including new insecticides, longer-lasting vaccines in the fight against malaria, and new diagnostic tools and drug regimens for identifying and treating tuberculosis.
"We still have a lot of work to do to end these epidemics," Gates said. "But I am optimistic that we can get there. A key critical reason for this is that we have science on our side."