“Do we need more resources? That’s easy—yes.” -Dr. Anthony Fauci
(Washington)—At a Capitol Hill meeting on Thursday, September 20th, marking 15 years since the start of the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—the U.S. government’s global AIDS program—policymakers, HIV advocacy groups, and organizations providing lifesaving services in sub-Saharan Africa called for more resources to close gaps in access to HIV treatment and prevention that still loom large around the world.
Despite bipartisan support and remarkable effectiveness, PEPFAR has been flat funded for seven years, which according to experts has curtailed the impact of the program. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) recently proposed a $50 million increase in U.S. funding for the global AIDS response in fiscal year 2019 that was included in the Senate Appropriations Bill. While this increase begins to right the wrongs done by years of flat funding, $850 million in additional funding is needed to finance the level of scale-up in services that is needed.
PEPFAR has provided treatment to over 14 million people living with HIV and supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people in poor countries around the world. Speakers at the event also emphasized how investment in PEPFAR was also an investment in the health system overall–beyond the HIV response. Yet, federal funding levels for the program have failed to grow in the face of rising unmet need for lifesaving prevention and treatment services.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the architects of the PEPFAR program, noted the need for resources to fully implement new science. “Do we need more resources? That’s easy – yes. For how we use the resources, we need to rely on the experts on the ground.”
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Columbia University HIV researcher and head of a major provider of HIV services in sub-Saharan Africa, agreed with this assessment. Pointing out that critical opportunities for acting on new science and technologies are missed when funding is inadequate, El Sadr asserted that additional funding can “lead countries into action [on rolling out new scientific discoveries] in, not 7 years but, 7 months.”
Co-hosted by U. S. Senator Johnny Isakson, speakers included Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr.Mark Dybul, Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University, Sean Cameron, President and CEO for Catholic Relief Services, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director ICAP at Columbia University and Martha Cameron, Foundation Ambassador for Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Sponsors of the meeting included the Health Global Access Project (Health GAP), amfAR The Foundation for AIDS Research, Children’s AIDS Fund, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Friends for the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Institute for Youth Development, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Heartland Alliance International, Jhpiego, Management Sciences for Health and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD).