At the Global Fund Seventh Replenishment Conference last month, President Joe Biden pledged $6 billion in U.S. funding to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and strengthen health systems worldwide. The announcement is a welcome sign of the administration’s continued interest in global health as attention to the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. But despite this and other recent commitments, the United States is still doing too little to address the danger of new and resurgent diseases.
The recent spread of monkeypox and even polio, though unlikely to reach pandemic levels, underscores this fact. Looking further, a paper published by Nature in April warned that there are more than 10,000 types of viruses that could infect humans currently circulating among wild animal populations, with the risk of “spillover” heightened by the effects of climate change. And perhaps worst of all, antibiotic-resistant bacteria — which already kill around 1 million people globally per year — could claim as many as 10 million lives annually by 2050, effectively returning us to a time when a simple cut could prove deadly.
COVID-19 itself has killed more than 1 million Americans, the highest official death toll in the world, and more than the combined total of Americans killed in wars since 1900.
A loss of life on this scale ought to bring about a reckoning, particularly in a country that was considered to be among the most prepared for a global pandemic prior to 2020. As the Washington Post editorial board stressed, this must include concerted domestic efforts to reform the nation’s public health systems and improve its response time to new pathogens.
Read the full piece in Tribune News Service.