HIV/AIDS public health experts predict a bipartisan review of PEPFAR in the US Congress.
- HIV/AIDS public health experts predict a bipartisan review of PEPFAR in the US Congress.
- This 1 December marks 35 years of World AIDS Day commemorations and 20 years of PEPFAR.
- Over 70 000 health clinics in sub-Saharan Africa, 3 000 laboratories, and over 340 000 health care workers are supported by PEPFAR.
The United States government is set to review the next five-year plan of the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), a programme to address the devastating impact of HIV/Aids across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This would be for the 2025–30 leg, in which global partners want to eradicate HIV/Aids as a global health pandemic.
US President Joe Biden asked for R130 billion ($6.8 billion) to fund the programme for the next half decade.
In the past, the programme has received bipartisan support.
Dr John Nkengasong, the US Global Aids Coordinator and Senior Bureau Official for Health Security and Diplomacy at the Department of State, is hopeful that Congress will pass the budget.
“We continue to work with both sides of Congress, and I remain optimistic that the good work that has been done over the last 20 years, guided by strong bipartisanship, will continue,” he said.
“It is always challenging in a democracy to have the answers when you need them, but again, I remain hopeful that we will not walk away from our commitment and partnership and that the good work that PEPFAR has done, thanks to the extensive partnership with the countries we are working in, will speak for itself.”
The long road travelled
Back in 2003, an HIV diagnosis was a one-way ticket to a death sentence across Africa, with only about 500 000 people receiving anti-retroviral medicines against the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates of 2.6 million people living with the virus across Sub-Saharan Africa then.
Nkengasong recalled how bad the situation was: “Coffin-making was a thriving industry, and the overwhelming majority of the 15 million children under the age of 18 who had lost one or both parents to AIDS were in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
In the late 1990s, Nkengasong worked in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It was there that he saw firsthand how badly HIV was ravaging communities.
“I remember looking out of the window at work and seeing people bringing their dying loved ones in wheelbarrows and taxis, and crying as they left them outside in the courtyard because they didn’t have the means to care for them. It was heartbreaking,” he said.
As Africa continued to be the hardest hit in 2003, former US President George W Bush announced PEPFAR, to address the devastating impact of HIV/Aids across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This year marks 20 years since PEPFAR began.
According to Nkengasong, the programme resulted in “over 25 million lives saved, including more than 5.5 million babies who have been born HIV-free.”
‘I no longer see streets lined with coffins’
On his tours across the continent, he has seen great improvements, as HIV no longer means a death sentence.
“In my recent visit to Cameroon and other PEPFAR partner countries, I no longer see streets lined with coffins; I meet mothers who are on their lifesaving treatment and healthy babies that have been born from these mothers,” he said.
“When you hold these children in your arms, you feel the future of that country.”
More than 70 000 facilities and community health clinics in Sub-Saharan Africa – about 3 000 laboratories – and over 340 000 healthcare workers are supported by PEPFAR.
The global target to eradicate HIV/Aids by 2030 is within reach, but only if some key sections of society are helped, despite cultural and stereotype challenges faced in communities.
“Reaching key populations, including adolescent girls and young women, children, men who have sex with men, sex workers, people in prison, and other closed settings, will be critical to ensuring the most vulnerable have access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment services,” Nkengasong said.
Nkengasong was speaking at a virtual press conference with a select group of African journalists on Tuesday afternoon.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
Source link : https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/20-million-lives-saved-by-pepfar-over-20-years-could-get-another-5-year-lifeline-20231130
Publish date : 2023-11-30 16:30:36