Despite cutting more than $210 million from global AIDS programs in his FY 2013 budget—the first president to cut AIDS funding—the Obama administration hosted a ceremony today led by Secretary of State John Kerry to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the respected lifesaving global AIDS plan initially created by President George W. Bush
AIDS patients and doctors from South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti and Vietnam recently traveled to the U.S. to visit 50 congressional offices to tell their personal stories and press legislators to continue to honor our commitment to PEPFAR, stressing the need for Congress to prioritize treatment, for its own sake, as well as prevention when reauthorizing the bill this fall
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a press briefing and ceremony to commemorate the 10th anniversary on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the respected lifesaving global AIDS plan initially created by President George W. Bush, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) expressed its disappointment with the Obama administration for cutting more than $210 million from global AIDS programs in his Fiscal-Year 2013 budget—the first president ever to cut AIDS funding.
At the ceremony, during which Secretary Kerry noted that PEPFAR represents the “…best of the human spirit,” and “…of American leadership,” he announced several key accomplishments of PEPFAR over the past ten years:
One (1) million babies have now been born HIV-negative thanks to PEPFAR’s MTC (mother-to-child) interventions.
13 countries have reached “programmatic tipping points” in their epidemics (defined by PEPFAR as where the annual increase in adults on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) exceeds the number of new adult infections reported. Note: NOT all so-called tipping point countries are from initial PEPFAR-focus countries.
Announcement of Key Populations Challenge Fund grant recipients, a $20 million challenge grant first unveiled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last summer during the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington. Secretary Kerry announced that Cambodia, Ghana, Nepal, Senegal, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and two regions are awarded funds to expand high impact comprehensive package of interventions and services for key populations, which include men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs (PWID), and sex workers (SW).
And (according to the official PEPFAR 10th Anniversary social media tool kit of suggested ghostwritten Tweets and Facebook posts) creation of something called the “PEPFAR Heroes: Giving Hope, Saving Lives” contest. Winners will be announced at an event in Washington, D.C. on World AIDS Day 2013.
“PEPFAR is a remarkable program that saves millions of lives and deserves to be celebrated,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “However, what it deserves more is to be adequately funded. President Obama just cut over $200 million in global AIDS funding, including funds for PEPFAR, and the effects of those devastating—and deadly—cuts are already being felt around the world, most notably with the closure of the AIDS treatment clinic at McCord Hospital in hard-hit South Africa. Yet instead of adequately funding PEPFAR, we get a report on some worthy accomplishments of PEPFAR wrapped in spin that helps obfuscate Obama’s deadly funding cuts.”
“Tipping point countries—what we know works, as shown by several of those countries recognized, is investing money in delivering actual lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, NOT reducing funds for treatment,” said Tom Meyers, Chief of Public Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Treatment saves lives, and reduces that chance that infections will be passed on to others. Funding cuts interrupt this proven plan.”
“In addition, the Key Populations Challenge Fund—six deserving countries and two regions will split $20 million—approximately $2.5 million each to address HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations,” added Weinstein. “Interestingly, this announcement was made at the same time when it’s being widely reported that Obama’s upcoming Africa trip is expected to cost between $60 to $100 million—for a trip.”
Separately, in a pre-briefing call yesterday to stakeholders, David Haroz, Special Assistant to the Principal Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator in the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, thanked call participants for their interest in the 10th Anniversary press briefing and urged them to “…help amplify the message…” This morning, in conjunction with the PEPFAR briefing, the administration issued a “PEPFAR 10TH Anniversary Event Social Media Toolkit” with suggested ghostwritten Tweets and Facebook posts for people to post and share via social media.
“And finally, ‘PEPFAR Heroes’ -- Perhaps it may be naiveté on the part of Obama’s social media team, but the concept of holding a ‘contest’ with ‘winners’ in the fight against AIDS, as the social media tool kit states in one proposed Tweet, seems a bit crass,” added Weinstein. “And if so, after ten years they couldn’t identify recipients already? More spin deflecting actual commitment to the global fight against AIDS. Sadly, we’ve seen this before in the administration’s ‘AIDS Free Generation’ and the 2010 roll out of Obama’s highly-touted ‘National Strategy on HIV/AIDS,’ an ambitious plan which did nothing to stop waiting lists for the nationwide network of federally supported AIDS Drug Assistance Programs from growing to over 10,000 vulnerable low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS waiting to access lifesaving medications. ADAP waiting lists were never as high as under Obama until after the release of his National AIDS Strategy.”
Global AIDS Patients Visit Congress to Press for PEPFAR Reauthorization
In mid-May, as part of its effort to ensure the reauthorization of PEPFAR at sufficient funding levels and with a proper focus on treatment, AHF brought five AIDS treatment clients and three doctors from AHF treatment clinics around the world to the United States. Individuals from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti and Vietnam traveled to the United States for a series of over 50 meetings the week of May 20-24 on Capitol Hill to drum up support for PEPFAR among Senate and Congressional leaders to when it comes up for reauthorization in the coming months.
The visitors asked Congress to ensure that funding for PEPFAR’s lifesaving efforts continue at appropriate levels and to urge legislators to demand accountability so that PEPFAR countries operate their AIDS treatment programs in the most cost effective ways by reducing the amount permitted to be spent on overhead and bureaucracy.
According to a CQ Healthbeat article on the overseas AIDS patients’ lobbing visits (5/20/13, Rebecca Adams), “The group is also asking appropriators to include report language that would urge the Department of State ‘to seek to devote 75 percent of PEPFAR dollars to antiretroviral drug and medical treatment and HIV testing.’ The organization also wants a provision saying, ‘The committee urges the Department to implement a yearly per-patient contribution for AIDS treatment of $275.00,’ which is approximately the amount of money that it takes for the organization to provide treatment through its clinics.”
“Theoretically, at a patient treatment cost of $275 per year, if Obama were to cancel his upcoming Africa trip and redirect that $60 million to $100 million back to global AIDS, anywhere from 218,000 to 363,000 additional people living with and dying from AIDS could be placed—or kept—on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment,” noted AHF’s Weinstein.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 200,000 individuals in 28 countries worldwide in the U.S., Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter & Instagram: @AIDSHealthcare.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation
General Counsel & Chief of Public Affairs
Director of Domestic Policy
Senior Director, Communications