TELFORD, United Kingdom — The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) is set to honor Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in a special tribute celebration on December 1, 2022. The event, which will coincide with World AIDS Day, will also pay tribute to the 43rd president, George Bush, and former First Lady Laura Bush, for their contributions to “diplomacy and development” in launching PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
What is the USGLC?
The USGLC is a nonprofit organization, created by a coalition of NGOs and businesses, that aims to encourage investment in the International Affairs Budget with the goal of making international development a focal point of U.S. government policy.
The organization promotes diplomacy and development as an equally important aspect of foreign policy as defense spending. This is because on-the-ground negotiation and investment in developing economies can be effective ways to peacefully solve conflicts and avoid sending troops abroad, minimizing risk to military personnel.
The USGLC’s Advisory Council consists of former Cabinet members and senators and representatives who provide expert advice on global issues. Notable members include former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton.
The organization also takes advice from its National Security Advisory Council, which is comprised of more than 200 retired high-ranking members of the Armed Forces.
The USGLC Will Honor Samantha Power
Samantha Power is the current administrator of USAID, but her interest in foreign affairs began many years ago. She started her career as a journalist, reporting from countries like Bosnia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, among others. In 2009, she began serving on the National Security Council, advising President Obama on a diverse range of international issues, from human trafficking to U.N. reform, before becoming the 28th U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2013, the youngest person to ever take on the role.
Since Power became an administrator in 2021, USAID has taken several significant steps to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the USAID website, the agency provided 22.4 million people with HIV testing services in 2021 while supplying pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment to 32 countries and improving accessibility to critical testing and treatment services in more than 50 countries.
What is PEPFAR?
Then-President Bush launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, with the goal of investing in an effective response to the AIDS epidemic through foreign aid. Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the USGLC, describes it as “one of the most significant achievements in global health in our lifetime.” As of 2021, the U.S. has dedicated more than $100 billion to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment through PEPFAR, saving more than 20 million lives thus far.
In 2003, the World Health Organization reported “alarmingly high levels” of HIV/AIDS in the southern and sub-Saharan parts of Africa. A 2015 study explains that before PEPFAR, HIV/AIDS led to high mortality rates in developing regions and stood in the way of economic development, killing many during “the most productive years of their lives.”
The impact of PEPFAR is dramatic, to say the least. As of 2021, 20 countries have succeeded in controlling their HIV epidemics with the help of PEPFAR’s programs and funding and “PEPFAR has enabled more than 2.8 million babies of mothers living with HIV to be born HIV-free,” PEPFAR data highlights.
PEPFAR initiatives have focused on improving access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART), which consists of daily medication to stop HIV from spreading in the body. ART reduces transmissibility and strengthens the patient’s weak immune system. While there is no cure for HIV, ART can drastically improve the quality of life for people living with the virus.
PEPFAR has also worked to expand testing services, allowing people in disadvantaged circumstances to become aware of their status and seek treatment. PEPFAR has trained nearly 300,000 health care workers to provide HIV/AIDS-specific treatment and more general health services.
AIDS Crisis Progress
Although the world has made significant steps forward since the first World AIDS Day in 1988, according to UNAIDS, 38 million people are living with HIV worldwide. Furthermore, 26 million of those living with HIV reside in developing countries where testing and treatment services are still under-resourced.
Another factor is that HIV disproportionately affects vulnerable populations who may be reluctant to seek out treatment or may be excluded from health services due to discrimination, marginalization or stigma.
However, 40 years after the first documented cases of HIV, there is hope for an AIDS-free future. On January 21, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first injectable form of PrEP, cabotegravir (or CAB-LA), to be administered monthly as an alternative to the strict daily regimen of oral medication.
In October 2022, Zimbabwe became the first country in Africa to approve CAB-LA, a crucial step in fighting the AIDS epidemic on the continent. For many low-income nations, drugs like CAB-LA are still prohibitively expensive. However, the PrEP pill was also costly when first introduced more than a decade ago, and over time, the price has significantly reduced. Making preventative measures more affordable will be instrumental in eliminating HIV/AIDS for good.
The USGLC event, which will honor Samantha Power and other HIV/AIDS champions, will take place on December 1 in Washington D.C. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding the educational arm of the USGLC, the Center for U.S. Global Leadership.
– Abbi Powell