(Washington, DC) — Global AIDS activists expressed disappointment over the release of Congress’ Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which fails to restore the $300 million in funding cuts that PEPFAR, the U.S.-funded global AIDS program, has seen since 2011. Instead, funding for global AIDS treatment and prevention remained level to FY 2015 at $4.32 billion for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and $1.35 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of the most devastating epidemic in modern history. We have the opportunity to end the HIV pandemic in the coming decade, but without enough funding for treatment and prevention, President Obama and Congress are betraying their promise to end AIDS,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health Global Access Project (Health GAP).
The 2016 Budget will continue the years of underfunding that PEPFAR has seen under the Obama Administration, which undermines PEPFAR’s effort to end AIDS by 2030 through accelerated program scale up, particularly of life saving HIV treatment. Newly released World Health Organization guidelines, endorsed by PEPFAR, call for all people with HIV to be offered treatment immediately upon diagnosis–a paradigm shift that requires more money, or else deadly disparities will persist in countries hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic.
A recent report released by a global coalition of activists showed that the world is far from achieving the imperative of acting on the evidence and delivering HIV treatment on demand for all; currently only 1 in 10 people living with HIV live in a country where access to treatment upon diagnosis is available. The outdated practice of making people with HIV wait to access to treatment has left community viral loads unnecessarily high and allows for continued infections. Achievement of this goal is jeopardized by funding cuts from the U.S. government.
“Each year that the U.S. Congress refuses to restore funding cuts to life saving global AIDS programs, people living with HIV suffer,” said Maureen Milanga, Health GAP’s Field Organizer, based in Nairobi. “In Kenya, these funding cuts will undermine national efforts to scale up treatment to everyone with HIV which is outrageous. Science has given us tools to end this pandemic. By refusing to commit funding to ensure PEPFAR funded countries act on the science, we will not reach our goal of ending HIV by the year 2030.”
The US has been a critical funder of global AIDS relief through the establishment of PEPFAR in 2003 by President George W. Bush. PEPFAR has consistently held strong bipartisan support in Congress because of its unparalleled success. Since 2003, PEPFAR has provided treatment and care for more than 7.7 million people living with HIV, dramatically reducing mortality and morbidity rates in highly affected countries.
Over 15 million of the 35 million people living with HIV are in treatment, and projections show that if the number of people in treatment is doubled to 30 million by 2020, AIDS will be over as a public health crisis by 2030. Without the scale up of funding, however, UNAIDS projects the number of people with HIV will increase to 100 million.