Today marks the final day of the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
This past week, we saw many inspiring examples of “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges” – the theme of AIDS 2018. In our 15th year, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing HIV services. We are using data to drive efforts toward reaching the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets for all ages, genders, and at-risk groups. We are also building the bridges to spur innovation and accelerate progress by leveraging the power of partnerships across various sectors.
During AIDS 2018, PEPFAR announced a number of exciting new partnerships and results.
We joined Sir Elton John, the Duke of Sussex, and other partners in launching the MenStar Coalition. MenStar is dedicated to expanding the diagnosis and treatment of HIV in men ages 24-35. MenStar will leverage over $1.2 billion in initial planned funding from a diverse group of global partners: PEPFAR, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and Gilead. Pending Congressional approval, PEPFAR plans to dedicate $800 million toward MenStar’s goals through our Country Operational Plans with a goal of reaching an additional 1 million men with HIV treatment and supporting over 90 percent of men in this age group to be virally suppressed.
We also reaffirmed PEPFAR’s commitment to reaching key populations with lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services. In the next 12 months, pending Congressional approval, PEPFAR plans to invest over $360 million dollars to support key populations, including $100 million in resources from the Key Populations Investment Fund to support indigenous organizations at the community level. We also joined the EJAF to announce the initial results from the LGBT Fund.
We released new data from the PEPFAR-funded Population-based HIV impact Assessments (PHIAs). Results from the PHIAs help us chart progress and identify critical gaps in the HIV/AIDS response, which PEPFAR is working to fill by directing our resources where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the largest, the need is highest, and the dollars are most efficiently used.
The latest PHIA data show that 77 percent of all HIV-positive adults in Namibia have achieved viral load suppression, surpassing the UNAIDS target of 73 percent three years ahead of schedule. Namibia has also cut its rate of new HIV infections in half over the past five years. Namibia accomplished this tremendous progress through the strategic expansion of HIV prevention and treatment services, with a focus on viral load suppression at the individual and community level, and the swift implementation of forward-leading HIV policies.
But there is still much work to be done. New PHIAs released this week from Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire reveal substantial gaps in Western Africa, pointing to key policy barriers to HIV service uptake that must be addressed. Across all 10 PHIAs released to date, younger women and men reported far lower rates of knowing their HIV status, using HIV treatment, and achieving viral suppression when compared to older adults. And in many countries and communities key populations continue to be discriminated against and left behind in receiving HIV prevention and treatment services.
This week in Amsterdam showed us both how far we have come and what is needed to accelerate progress, learn from our successes, and fill critical gaps. As we depart AIDS 2018, we look forward to continuing our partnerships with governments, civil society, scientists, and implementers, with renewed energy and urgency.
About the Author: Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D. is U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.