December 1, 2018, marks the 30th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, and this year is the 15th anniversary of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Fifteen years ago, HIV was on the verge of wiping out an entire generation across Africa and in much of the rest of the world. Today, thanks to support from three U.S. presidents, eight U.S. congresses, and the generosity of the American people, we can tell a far different story – a story of 17 million men, women, and children alive and thriving around the globe.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed PEPFAR legislation for the third time in its history – extending the program’s existing authorities for another five years and reaffirming the remarkable bipartisan, bicameral support for PEPFAR since its inception.
In advance of World AIDS Day, the Trump administration made a number of exciting announcements. Yesterday, at the White House World AIDS Day event, Vice President Michael Pence called PEPFAR “inarguably one of the most successful investment in healthcare and humanitarian aid in American history” and announced that the U.S. government will invest $100 million with congressional support, through PEPFAR, to address key gaps toward achieving HIV epidemic control and advancing justice for children. These resources, subject to congressional notification, will support innovative approaches to reaching young men, adolescent girls and young women, and HIV-positive children with HIV prevention and treatment services, including by leveraging the unique capacities and compassion of faith-based organizations and communities.
On November 27, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced PEPFAR’s latest results across 53 countries. As of September 30, 2018, PEPFAR is supporting over 14.6 million people on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART). PEPFAR has also enabled over 2.4 million babies to be born HIV-free to mothers living with HIV; supported over 6.8 million orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers; provided voluntary medical male circumcision to 18.9 million men and boys in eastern and southern Africa, offering them critical protection from HIV infection; and trained more than 270,000 health care workers.
Addressing the PEPFAR Faith Communities and HIV Technical Summit at the State Department, Secretary Pompeo underscored that “by focusing resources where the HIV burden is the greatest – and where the highest impacts can be achieved – PEPFAR demonstrates the power of U.S. foreign assistance when it is tied to accountability, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness.”
Earlier this week, PEPFAR also released data revealing that Ethiopia is on the verge of achieving HIV epidemic control and that Nigeria may be closer to achieving HIV epidemic control than was previously thought. These results build on those highlighted in the 2018 PEPFAR Strategy Progress Report, which shows that up to 13 high HIV burden countries are now on pace to control their HIV epidemics by 2020 through the support of the U.S. government and its partners.
In addition, PEPFAR launched a new report – “Dreaming of an AIDS-Free Future” – demonstrating that, in the past year, new HIV diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women continued to decline in 85% of the highest HIV burden communities and districts that are implementing PEPFAR’s DREAMS public-private partnership to ensure girls grow into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.
Country by country, community by community, county by county, controlling the HIV epidemic is not only feasible – it is happening, as death and despair are replaced with life and hope.
Through the generosity of the American people and PEPFAR’s partnerships with countries and communities around the globe, together, we have the chance to make the impossible possible – on World AIDS Day and every day.
About the Author: Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D. is U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.