AVAC, Health GAP and the Treatment Action Group (TAG) strongly condemn the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). Today’s announcement formalizing the President’s threats from earlier this year is short-sighted and dangerous and will cost more lives and deepen economic devastation in the United States and around the world, which are already reeling from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This virus respects no borders; COVID-19 anywhere can quickly become COVID-19 everywhere. Global health emergencies require global leadership, and that requires a strong and supported World Health Organization,” said Mitchell Warren, AVAC’s Executive Director. “The Administration is playing politics with people’s lives here in the U.S. and around the world. We will be left behind as the world comes together to collaborate and coordinate science as the best strategy to counter the pandemic, and we will lose ground in our historical investments to end HIV, TB, hepatitis C, and other health issues.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global cooperation among researchers and funders, with WHO playing a critical role in coordinating both the overall global response and many of the global research initiatives. Global cooperation on public health policy, science, data and information sharing is needed more urgently than ever before. The Trump administration makes a dangerous gamble in thinking that the US can act alone in the response to COVID-19.
“We are seeing the disastrous effects of the US federal government’s lack of strategy playing out every day in increased COVID cases and deaths of Americans, particularly in the Black community,” says Suraj Madoori, TAG’s U.S. and Global Health Policy Director. “Withdrawal from WHO will only compound the issues for our nation and for the world by further retreating on shared responsibilities in public health governance.”
The COVID-19 epidemic is devastating already constrained health systems in low- and middle-income countries where COVID-19 is surging and has further weakened the U.S. healthcare system as well. At the same time, this new pandemic is already having profound implications on responses to HIV/AIDS, TB, viral hepatitis, malaria, vaccination and contraceptive programs and all other public health responses.
WHO plays a key role in coordination, guidance development, and mobilization of these public health responses in countries struggling with COVID-19 in addition to limited resources, conflict, and other humanitarian and ecological disaster-related crises. As governments and stakeholders position resources against COVID-19, the WHO has taken the lead in forming the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a new and needed global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The U.S., as a historic leader and funder of global public health initiatives, and the largest funder of WHO, has a moral responsibility to help ensure an equitable global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Terminating the U.S. relationship with WHO starves the organization of funding, U.S. staff, and U.S. expertise. It likely prolongs the pandemic and will force WHO to cut critical funding and support for other health programs, including those responding to HIV/AIDS, TB, viral hepatitis, and sexual and reproductive health.
“The Trump administration is shameless in its extreme nationalism at the expense of people’s lives. The WHO performs a vital role in getting new HIV treatments to people around the world safely and quickly and providing key technical assistance to strengthen health systems in vulnerable countries. Trump pulling the U.S. out of the WHO is yet another demonstration of his disregard for people living with HIV around the world,” said Matthew Rose, Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy for Health GAP.
AVAC, Health GAP and TAG call for the Trump Administration to immediately reverse this disastrous decision, restore and protect funding to WHO and work to ensure global cooperation in the pandemic response.
About TAG: Treatment Action Group (TAG) is an independent, activist and community-based research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, prevention, a vaccine, and a cure for HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C virus. TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV, TB, and HCV receive lifesaving treatment, care, and information. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions.
About AVAC: Founded in 1995, AVAC is a non-profit organization that uses education, policy analysis, advocacy and a network of global collaborations to accelerate the ethical development and global delivery of HIV prevention options as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic.
About Health GAP: Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life sustaining medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.