SEATTLE — U.S. global health funding has contributed to great strides in combating the epidemics of our time. Within 15 years, the AIDs death rate decreased by 28 percent, the tuberculosis death rate has decreased by 22 percent and malaria deaths have decreased by 60 percent.
These successes are due in part to George W. Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) programs. The U.S. also sponsors USAID’s Tuberculosis Program and helps finance the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Trump administration is considering significant cuts to these programs. Since a little global health funding goes a long way, even small cuts would have immense impacts. Life-saving treatments can cost only a few dollars. With less funding, fewer people can receive these necessities.
PEPFAR, for instance, supplied 11.5 million HIV-infected people with antiretroviral treatment by the end of the 2016 fiscal year. The program also helps patients with other HIV-related medical costs, helps build healthcare infrastructures and trains staff in developing countries. All this cost PEPFAR $65 billion in 2013, a mere $315 per patient per year.
PEPFAR supports the Global Fund, a program created to fight the AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics. This line of global health funding supports healthcare systems by improving health data systems, investing in human resources and offering health insurance. The Global Fund also provides treatment programs for these diseases. It’s estimated that between 2005 and 2015, the Global Fund spent approximately $30 billion, yet saved 20 million lives. It only cost $1,500 per person, over 15 years, to keep them alive.
PMI is a USAID program. It operates in 19 sub-Saharan African countries with high malaria burdens. In 2016, the initiative sprayed four million homes with insecticide, protecting 16 million people. It also procured more than 30 million insecticide-treated nets, seven million intermittent malaria preventative treatments for pregnant women, 10 million chemoprevention treatments for malaria for 1.2 million children, 44 million anti-malaria treatments and 77 million malaria diagnostic tests. The initiative also trained 157,000 people in everything from spraying insecticide to administering tests and treatments, to case management. This exhaustive list only cost $621.5 million. Insecticide bed nets prevent against malaria-infected mosquitoes. They cost as little as $2.50 per net.
The initiative also trained 157,000 people in everything from spraying insecticide and administering tests and treatments to case management. This exhaustive list only cost $621.5 million. Insecticide bed nets protect against malaria-infected mosquitoes. They cost as little as $2.50 per net.
Other global health funding includes USAID’s Tuberculosis Program. Between 2005 and 2015, this program saved 49 million lives by diagnosing and treating tuberculosis. In 2015, USAID spent $242 million and diagnosed 3.7 million tuberculosis cases and provided 2.8 million people with treatment, 70,000 of whom had drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis. Treatment alone only cost about $86 per person.
These figures may seem exorbitant. Yet, consider that in 2013, the average individual in the U.S. was expected to spend more than $2,800 on annual healthcare premiums. The $315 per year it takes to treat HIV would be a small portion of this, and those in developed countries tend to spend only $80 per patient per year for HIV treatment. While $30 billion seems like a lot for the U.S. to give to one program, the government allocated $601 billion to the defense budget in 2015 alone.
When all global health funding numbers are added up, they seem unfeasibly expensive. Yet, the breakdown shows that healthcare for developing nations is rather inexpensive and the return on the investment is the preservation of human lives. People are, indeed, an investment worth making.
– Mary Katherine Crowley