UNION CITY, Georgia — In 2003, President George W. Bush introduced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It is a global initiative that was introduced and passed by Congress to help tackle the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has been innovative and met the needs of societies across the world most affected by HIV/AIDS through policies based on data in coordination with partner countries. PEPFAR has been pivotal in the global fight against AIDS, now it must be renewed for a fourth time to continue to build upon the progress that has already been made.
What Has PEPFAR Accomplished?
Since PEPFAR was introduced, over $100 billion has been invested across the world by the U.S. government in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. To date, PEPFAR has:
- Saved more than 25 million lives.
- Contributed to more than 5.5 million babies born HIV-free.
- Provided 64.7 million people access to HIV testing services.
- Reached 2.9 million girls and young women with comprehensive HIV prevention services.
- Provided 7 million orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers with critical care and support.
- Placed 20.1 million adults and children on life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
- Helped 2.8 million ART clients complete tuberculosis TB preventive therapy.
- Helped perform 30 million voluntary medical male circumcisions to prevent HIV infections in men and boys.
- Enrolled nearly 1.5 million new clients on PrEP to prevent HIV infection.
- Trained over 340,000 new healthcare workers.
- Supported several countries to achieve HIV epidemic control, all while significantly strengthening global health and economic security.
The program is designed to work within interconnected partnerships that work in tandem across multiple areas to reach the segments of the population across the globe that are most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through a combination of innovative solutions and investments, the program has had an optimal impact in enforcing data-driven policies that contribute to stronger health systems, stronger laboratory and supply chain systems and stronger data collection and surveillance systems, thus improving the entire health workforce.
What Would Be the Consequences of Failing to Reauthorize PEPFAR?
Both administration officials in the White House and health experts are warning that if PEPFAR is not reauthorized, it will have significant and wide-ranging consequences. Not only will the program face challenges in purchasing affordable care, but it will also result in a decline in the U.S.’s position as a global health leader. Moreover, obtaining essential commodities will become more challenging, leading to higher prices and hindering the program’s effectiveness and innovation. Ultimately, the lives of those supported by PEPFAR would be at risk.
What’s Standing in the Way of Reauthorizing PEPFAR?
PEPFAR has a long tradition of bipartisan support, it has been renewed three times: in 2008, 2013 and 2018. Unfortunately, reauthorization is uncertain due to misinformation about family planning. However, PEPFAR is legally prohibited from funding abortions. This restriction ensures that PEPFAR’s focus remains on its primary objective, which is to provide comprehensive support and care to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. By adhering to these legal guidelines, PEPFAR maintains transparency and accountability while continuing its vital work in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
PEPFAR has been pivotal in the fight against AIDS. The program has prevented death from HIV/AIDS, increased testing, provided prevention services, and has saved more than 25 million lives. The program has also been instrumental in achieving big reductions in maternal and child mortality alongside increases in childhood immunization rates. It has been a tremendous success, and unfortunately, partisan disagreements have gotten in the way of seeing a widely successful program with traditional bipartisan support have a future that is uncertain.
– Gary Williams