For Immediate Release
(Boston, MA) Taking into account new UNAIDS prevalence numbers, 140 leading AIDS researchers, clinicians, medical school deans and a former head of the Centers for Disease Control have signed a letter to President Bush affirming the need for $55 to $60 billion for PEPFAR reauthorization in order to keep pace with the AIDS pandemic. PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, has initiated HIV treatment with some 800,000 people since its inception in 2003.
Early this year, President Bush announced that he would support a doubling of the program to $30 billion. While this seemed at first to be a promising next step, this sum of money would only expand the program to 500,000 new patients over five years beyond PEPFAR I's original treatment target. "When 2 million are dying every year, treating 100,000 new patients per year is not enough," said PHR's Health Action AIDS Campaign Director Pat Daoust, MSN, RN.
Further, the announcement provides reason for concern about whether a reauthorized PEPFAR would ramp up prevention efforts. The President's target of preventing 12 million new HIV infections means lowered sights in the second five years, as PEPFAR's original goal had been to prevent 7 million new infections in five years. Advocates are now campaigning for the increase to $55 to $60 billion.
In addition, signers are asking Congress to address several factors in the reauthorized legislation that are fueling the epidemic. They are calling for new PEPFAR legislation to address the catastrophic shortage of health workers in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a need for at least one million more health workers. Second, they are asking PEPFAR to specify funding to help empower women, who comprise 61% of adult Africans living with HIV. They are also asking the US to address the need for scientifically-proven interventions for IV-drug driven epidemics in Vietnam and other areas through comprehensive HIV prevention strategies including access to clean needles, access to substitution therapy (such as methadone), counseling, and drug treatment.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.