President Obama’s New Global HIV Goals Are Missing Life-saving Money
From the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit Activists demand $300 million in new funding in 2016 and 2017 to save lives
Urgent Action Needed on Pharmaceutical Company Profiteering to Prevent the ‘Next Daraprim’
NEW YORK--Health GAP reacted today to new White House targets for global HIV treatment and prevention by calling on the United States government to ensure sufficient funding to deliver on these goals.
The targets—reaching 11.4 million people with HIV treatment by 2016 and 12.9 million by 2017, and achieving a 40% reduction in HIV incidence among young women aged 15-24 by 2017—promise bold expansion of effective interventions to halt AIDS deaths and new HIV infections, reversing a previous slow-down in antiretroviral (ARV) treatment enrollment supported by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). But without sufficient funding these targets will either not be possible or will force country programs to make devastating choices. Activists called on the U.S. Congress and the White House to close a looming funding gap by increasing funding for PEPFAR by $300 million in 2016. They also called for an additional increase of $300 million, on top of the FY 2016 budget, in 2017.
The new targets come two years after Congress mandated that President Obama adopt new PEPFAR targets, and indicate a planned reversal of a troubling trend identified by Health GAP in January 2015 of decreased emphasis on treatment scale up within PEPFAR. The announcement also coincides with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, which include a commitment by world leaders to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030.
“The end of AIDS will not be possible without the funding to turn these targets into reality and ensure rapid, fully funded, quality scale up,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. “PEPFAR’s budget shortfalls must be corrected—otherwise life saving programs will not be equipped to expand in communities in urgent need of treatment, and these targets, while noble, will fall far short of the need.”
The PEPFAR program has been cut by over $300 million since FY2010. Senator Lindsay Graham, Chair of the Senate State/Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and 2016 Presidential-hopeful recently promised to make this $300 million a priority while speaking to AIDS activists in South Carolina and Iowa. Health GAP called on other political leaders to follow suit this year.
“Restoring cuts to PEPFAR will mean the difference between life and death for people waiting for treatment in high burden countries like Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, which have some of the world’s largest treatment gaps,” said Jamila Headley, Managing Director of Health GAP. Together these three countries have an estimated 2.5 million people in need of HIV treatment according to UNAIDS. Yet both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have insufficient funds to expand as rapidly as needed. “Without this increase, programs will not be able to implement vital innovations such as immediate ART treatment and viral load monitoring. Instead of acting on the science, programs will deliver sub standard interventions, and will be forced to turn away HIV-positive people ready to start treatment.”
Health GAP noted that in 2015, even while scaling up, funding shortfalls have forced US government AIDS programs to focus funding on only the highest burden geographic areas in each country. “Focusing limited dollars where they will go the farthest may be a stop-gap necessity, but this alone will not end the AIDS crisis in countries like Zimbabwe or Mozambique, where there are virtually no truly low-prevalence areas, just areas in need of scale-up,” said Russell.
Health GAP also called for intensified US government action to reduce drug prices, in order to maximize access and address the harmful impact of reckless, greedy pharmaceutical companies using monopolies to exploit patients and purchasers. “The Daraprim scandal is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Brook Baker, Senior Policy Analyst at Health GAP. “Implementing the targets announced today requires much more generic competition, especially for new HIV treatments, to drive down the cost of these life-saving medicines. Instead the U.S. is pressuring the world’s largest maker of affordable drugs, India, to eliminate the very pro-health safeguards in its intellectual property rules that PEPFAR depends on for affordable drugs.” Activists noted that Sustainable Development Goal 3 includes a specific reference to supporting affordable medicine--a goal with which President Obama’s U.S. trade policy directly conflicts.