The story of UNITAID's mission to treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is a successful and inspiring case study of innovative finance in action - of people - power, solidarity, and the potential to do good on a massive scale. In partnership with the Clinton's HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI), UNICEF, and other organisations, UNITAID has pioneered techniques for raising massive amounts of money from a wide pool of donors. The scale of UNITAID's fundraising has enabled it to think big: it tackles the three major and interrelated epidemics that cause millions of deaths every year in the developing world by using their buying power to lower prices for and improve the delivery of essential drugs. In just three years, more than 250,000 children have been reprieved from the death sentence of HIV contracted in utero; more than 16 million people have received life-saving treatments against malaria; and more than 130,000 people have been cured of tuberculosis. UNITAID's newest programme, collecting small contributions via a check-box on the world's biggest travel websites, launched in the United States in January 2010.
It is a fascinating model for philanthropy, proving that you can scale up both the fundraising and the ambition of lifesaving treatment programs. Moreover, UNITAID has proved able to continue its work uninterrupted by the financial turmoil that has blighted other private and government aid programmes. It provides a model for challenging times.
Philippe Douste-Blazy is the founding president of UNITAID. Prior to heading UNITAID, he was a professor of medicine Toulouse Sciences University, health minister of France on two occasions, and foreign minister of France. Daniel Altman is an economist, journalist and writer. He currently teaches a course on the future of the global economy at the Stern School of Business at New York University and is writing a book on the same topic (Times Books, 2010). He was formerly an economic adviser to the British government and a columnist at The Economist, The New York Times, and The International Herald Tribune..