CALL ON OBAMA TO DOUBLE TREATMENT SUPPORT: AIDS DRUGS FOR 12 MILLION BY 2016
by, Paul Davis, Director of Global Campaigns for Health GAP
AIDS campaigners from Health GAP cheered for unanimous passage in the U.S. Congress of a bill reauthorizing the popular President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for another five years. The bill improves PEPFAR’s reporting and accounting for patients on HIV/AIDS treatment, while building confidence worldwide that the U.S. commitment to an “AIDS Free Generation” announced by President Obama last December is here to stay. Advocates also cheered for a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by 40 members of Congress that helped move the PEPFAR bill, and was delivered to the White House late last week. The letter urged President Obama to extend PEPFAR’s treatment target and commit to getting anti-AIDS drugs to at least 12 million people by 2016. The program’s current goal of six million will lapse by the end of this year.
“When so much seems to be broken in Washington, people with HIV around the world can take heart from the loud and clear message of support for AIDS treatment programs coming from Congress,” stated Paul Davis, Health GAP’s Director of Global Campaigns. “President Obama should heed the strong call issued jointly by progressives, independents and conservatives of every party to both renew PEPFAR and extend life-saving medication to at least 12 million people by 2016.”
Maureen Milanga, Health GAP’s lead staffer in Nairobi reported “Certainty that PEPFAR is continuing to support expanded treatment helps us leverage our own governments in hard-hit countries like Kenya to step up and contribute more. We are grateful to the U.S. Senators and Representatives for pushing PEPFAR III through, even though many activists thought it couldn’t be done. Now we need President Obama to finish the job and commit to getting 12 million people on AIDS treatment by World AIDS Day.”
Health GAP applauds in particular the hard work by the staff of the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees, as well as House and Senate Leadership. “Staffers for Senators Menendez and Corker, Representatives Royce and Engel and the Chair of the Congressional AIDS Caucus Congresswoman Lee led the way,” stated Student Global AIDS Campaign Coordinator Amirah Sequeira. “The strategic leadership of these Members of Congress over the last three months continuously turned obstacles into opportunities, and brings us to the verge of passing crucial legislation that, in the past, needed more than a year of struggle the last two times it came to Congress.”
The PEPFAR program has been without a coordinator, who stepped down earlier this month. Noting the looming Dec 1-3 dates for World AIDS Day and a U.S.-hosted donor conference to replenish the coffers of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Health GAP’s Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Kavanagh comments that “Congress has demonstrated stronger support for global AIDS programs than ever before. On this World AIDS Day, the Obama Administration should follow up last year’s landmark ‘Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation’ and the renewal of PEPFAR by appointing and empowering a new Global AIDS Coordinator to implement the bipartisan demand to get anti-HIV medications to 12 million people by 2016.”
Activists have also called on the Obama Administration to commit to at least continue the current level of funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria already approved by Congress this year for two additional years, totaling $5 billion by 2016.