The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved $2.4 billion in grants to fund efforts to combat the diseases during the next two years, reports Voice of America News.

According to the article, because of the world economic crisis, the grant falls $350 million short of last year's total and might not be enough to sustain global efforts against infectious diseases without contributions from wealthy countries and private donors.

Since 2002, the Global Fund has contributed $18 million to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with a quarter of the funding donated by the United States.

At a recent Global Fund meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, MD, told board members that despite the worldwide recession, they must ramp up their response to HIV.

Specifically, Goosby said that many of the vulnerable, high-risk groups—especially men who have sex with men—are hard to reach because they engage in activity that some cultures consider illegal or unacceptable. 

“These difficult-to-reach populations frequently go underground and remain not visible to the medical delivery system,” Goosby said. “So we are still seeing people coming into care very late because they are not getting tested early. They are coming in when they are symptomatic, which is usually after a decade of infection.”