You wouldn’t know it from watching the news or listening to lawmakers, but AIDS isn’t a disease of the past, it’s a crisis of now. 

Roughly 2,500 people die from AIDS every single day. Every minute, three more people are infected with HIV. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

That’s why I traveled to Washington, D.C last month along with dozens of students, faith leaders, and advocates from across the country to talk to Indiana lawmakers about the importance of maintaining America’s leadership in the global fight against AIDS. During my trip, I met with the office of Senator Todd Young o discuss why he must vote to maintain funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of our best tools to fight AIDS, ahead of its October replenishment.

It’s a pivotal time for the U.S. to maintain our leadership in fighting AIDS, and we are at an important crossroads in our long battle against the disease. Currently, the world is investing 20 percent less than what’s needed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. This has significant consequences and experts have warned the disease could resurge if we don’t continue funding for these investments. If we want a healthier, safer and more stable world, it’s essential that America keeps funding life-saving programs like the Global Fund. 

For nearly two decades, the U.S. has led the global push to eliminate AIDS in a bipartisan manner. In a town dominated by mudslinging and partisan discourse, America’s commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable people is one of the few policy areas that almost everyone agrees on. Members of both parties in Congress have reached across the aisle and worked hand in hand with Republican and Democratic presidential administrations to advance the global fight against AIDS. 

America’s leadership in the fight against AIDS has saved millions of lives and given hope to people around the globe. Indiana has even been a leader in the fight to end preventable diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria. New analysis from The ONE Campaign has shown that since 2002, through their support to the Global Fund, Indiana taxpayers have helped save roughly 155,825 lives. In 2017 alone, Indiana taxpayers helped provide antiretroviral therapy for roughly 97,531 people with HIV, distribute 1,097,919 mosquito nets to prevent malaria, and treat 27,866 people with TB.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Trump put a needed spotlight on the AIDS crisis in the U.S. and beyond. However, diseases don’t respect borders, and the harsh truth is that around the world, an HIV diagnosis is still a death sentence for those who can’t access life-saving treatment. In the past two years, the White House has proposed two major cuts to the global AIDS response. Pumping the brakes on years of steadfast investment in the Global Fund and PEPFAR would reverse our hard-fought progress at a time when we need to be keeping our foot on the gas.

The Global Fund has helped save tens of millions of lives over its first 15 years in operation and a fully funded Global Fund would help us save 16 million more lives by 2023. The U.S currently contributes $1 for every $2 contributed by other governments, foundations, and the private sector, and that commitment has been leveraged to incentivize major investments from other donors. In fact, over the last few years, countries supported by the Global Fund have increased their own health investments by more than 40 percent. Such impressive results are largely due to the program’s commitment to transparency and partnerships with the private sector. 

Working in concert with PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria has been one of the most effective and efficient health organizations on the planet. In my meeting with Senator Young I made it clear that Congress must continue America’s leadership in the AIDS fight by maintaining investment in the Global Fund at one-third of its total. We have come too far in the global battle to end AIDS, and it’s time for America to send another strong signal to the world that we aren’t stopping now.

-Mary Barbara Marti is a Carmel-based volunteer with The ONE Campaign, a policy and advocacy organization taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Earlier this week, Marti traveled to Washington DC to meet with Senator Young on Capitol Hill, to discuss funding for the Global Fund, one of the most effective and efficient global health organizations on the planet.