Justin Trudeau pledges $785M over 3 years to fight AIDS, TB and malaria

Canada will give an additional $785 million over three years for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and will host the fund's next replenishment conference in Montreal in September, the prime minister announced at a town hall in Ottawa today.

Loyce Maturu, 23, speaks about her own fight with HIV, tuberculosis in Zimbabwe

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $785 million over three years for the Global Fund - a 20 per cent increase in Canada's contributions - and said Montreal would host the fund's fifth replenishment conference in September. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada is pledging an additional $785 million over three years to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in Ottawa today.

Trudeau said the new financial commitment represents a 20 per cent increase from Canada's previous contribution level.

He also announced that Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund in Montreal on Sept.16, 2016.

The prime minister made the announcements during a town hall on global health.

"Thankfully," Trudeau said, "organizations like the Global Fund exist to make a real difference. It works hard each and every day to deliver help to those who need it most."

"They truly do save lives each and every day."

Trudeau also announced Canada will promote the Global Fund's social media campaign known as "End It For Good."

"This campaign encourages the public, and particularly young people, to raise awareness about these three diseases through social media," he said in Ottawa on Monday.

Canada's support for the fund, which was created in 2002, has focused on fighting three of the world's most devastating diseases, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

From left, Melinda Gates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Global Fund Executive Director Mark Dybul and Loyce Maturu listen to speakers during a Global Fund town hall on AIDS and malaria prevention in Ottawa on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Under the previous Conservative government, Canada's efforts on maternal health won praise from the international community including the World Health Organization which urged other countries to follow Canada's lead.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper told the UN in 2014 that saving the lives of the world's most vulnerable mothers and their children was not only a global priority, but an issue "closest to his heart."

AIDS, tuberculosis survivor speaks out

Trudeau was joined on stage by Loyce Maturu, a young woman from Zimbabwe, who recounted for the crowd her own struggle living with HIV.

Maturu, 23, said that she lost her mother and younger brother to AIDS and tuberculosis in 2002.

"This was the most depressing moment for me as I was only 10 years old," she said.

Two years later, Maturu learned she too had contracted HIV and tuberculosis.

"It was really the most painful thing to know. I really got depressed and I cried and I thought I was going to die, and that was the end of me just like my mother and my younger brother had died." 

Loyce Maturu, 23, of Zimbabwe tells a Global Fund forum how she was able to overcome TB and the psychological challenge of living with HIV. 3:11

Maturu said that thanks to a clinic supported by the Global Fund she managed to receive treatment for her tuberculosis.

"However, mentally, it was really difficult for me to accept that I had HIV, for I was 12 years-old," said Maturu.

Despite seeking psychological help, Maturu said she also suffered verbal and emotional abuse from a family member in 2010. That's when she attempted to commit suicide.

"I tried killing myself... and I took all of the medication that I had and I said I just want to die."

With support from the Global Fund, Maturu said she is now a survivor and a global spokesperson in support of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

"We have a come a long way...," Maturu said adding that, "we still have a long way to go in making sure that people like me, in sub-Saharan Africa, have the access to treatment, care and support services for them to live a confident, healthy life..."

Maturu thanked Canada for the additional financial support today.

Empowering women and girls

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was also in Ottawa to support the Global Fund initiative.

The philanthropist spoke of the lessons she learned through her 15 years of work with her charitable foundation.

"We started the premise for our foundation with the single belief, that we have as a couple, that all lives — no matter where they're lived on the planet — have equal value."

"But the truth is, the world doesn't treat all lives as if they have equal value," Gates said.

If we don't start getting into the root causes of these inequalities, we're not going to be able to reach that goal of eliminating these diseases by 2030.- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Gates urged world leaders to empower women and girls, who are most affected by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

"If we want to get at these diseases, we've got to get at young girls and at women."

"If we can reach women and girls, what they do is lift their family up," Gates said.

Trudeau was asked by an audience member about the government's role in narrowing the gender gap.

"The way to go after and eradicate those diseases isn't just about medications... it's also about looking at reducing the inequalities that exists within communities and soecieties."

"The fact that young women and girls have such challenges — institutionally, structurally — against them in so many parts of the world, indeed all around the world," Trudeau said.

"If we don't start getting into the root causes of these inequalities, we're not going to be able to reach that goal of eliminating these diseases by 2030."

"Empowering women is at the heart of what the Global Fund must do," he said.

Representatives from several leading organizations were also in Ottawa to show their support.

"'Canada is back' is tangible, measurable and meaningful," said Stuart Hickox, the Canadian director of the ONE Campaign, in a post on Twitter — echoing remarks made by Trudeau about Canada's role on the international stage.

The ONE Campaign is an organization co-founded by U2 lead singer Bono in 2004, who was in Ottawa last June to meet with the previous Conservative government to discuss maternal and child health projects in Africa and elsewhere.

His visit re–ignited a political debate over the Conservative government's development policy, which focused on maternal and child health, while freezing overall development spending. The Liberals' moves to address this in their first budget in March were seen as modest at best.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi welcomed the additional funding saying in a post on Twitter, "This is a really big deal. Canada's lack of action at last replenishment had dire consequences."

Trudeau was joined Monday by International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, who said the government will also focus on providing women and girls in developing countries with economic opportunities.

The Liberal government announced in March that Canada would contribute $76 million to the United Nations Population Fund to increase access to maternal, newborn and reproductive health services in developing countries and add $5 million for contraceptive supplies.