5 reasons why mental health should be at the heart of the Global Fund’s new strategy

By Sarah Kline, CEO, United for Global Mental Health


As the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria holds its 6th Partnerships Forum to collect ideas to shape their new strategy (for 2023-2028), here are five good reasons why mental health needs to become an integral part of the global response to HIV and TB.

1. Without addressing mental health, there will be no end to HIV or to TB. 

HIV, TB and mental and substance-use disorders are inextricably linked. Poor mental health is a risk factor for HIV and TB infection and, once infected, having HIV and/or TB is a huge risk factor for developing mental disorders. We know that people with HIV and TB experience higher rates of depression, which has been linked to higher rates of mortality. The lack of mental health and psychosocial support for people who are living with, or are at risk of, HIV and TB poses huge barriers to their health and well-being, as well as ending these epidemics.

2. It makes economic sense.

Every US$1 that is invested in mental health, HIV or TB programmes can reap economic returns of US$4US$6.40 and US$43 respectively.

3. Major global players, including UNAIDS and the U.S. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), are already following recommendations on integrating mental health in their response to HIV/AIDS and TB. 

The Global Fund now needs to do the same and seize this chance to do things differently, update its policies and practice in line with other global health organisations, and transform the response to the co-epidemics of HIV, TB and mental ill health and the futures of those affected.

4. It will strengthen health systems and ultimately help to achieve universal health coverage (UHC).

The Global Fund has the resources, technical knowhow and opportunity to fundamentally change health systems, particularly in low-income settings. By placing mental health at the heart of the approach, primarily through primary and community level care, the Global Fund can lay the foundations of universal mental health coverage in many countries as the Fund’s mission has always been entwined with ultimately achieving UHC.

5. It will promote and protect the right to good mental health especially in vulnerable populations, significantly improving the quality of life for millions of individuals living with, or at risk of, HIV and/or TB infection. 

By placing a person-centred mental health approach at the heart of HIV and TB programmes, the Global Fund can lay the foundations of rights-based, quality universal mental health coverage, and accelerate progress against these epidemics.