UNITAID was launched by the governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom in September 2006, in order to respond to the need for additional, innovative sources of funding for global health and development. By the end of 2008, UNITAID's membership grew from five countries in 2006 to 29 countries and one foundation in 2008. The majority of UNITAID's member countries are African. In 2008, three new countries announced contributions to UNITAID: Cyprus, Jordan and Luxembourg.
UNITAID receives its funds through airline ticket taxes or regular budget contributions. Countries implementing the airline tax include Chile, France, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger and the Republic of Korea. Norway allocates part of its tax on carbon dioxide emissions from air travel to UNITAID. Jordan joined UNITAID in late 2008 and declared its intention of introducing the air tax. In addition, two African countries, Kenya and Burkina Faso, pledged their intention of introducing the air tax in the near future to support UNITAID.