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Crisis, 8 Years On

Article by Eric G. Bing September 8, 2011 //   3 minute read

On May 27, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act, establishing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  The immediate commitment it provided of $15 billion over five years to combat the world’s HIV/AIDS pandemic was the largest up-front contribution made by a single nation to combat a specific disease on a global scale in history.  Its results have proved to be well worth the investment. President Bush had proposed PEPFAR just four months prior in his 2003 State of the Union address, calling the initiative “a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.”  Congress responded quickly in approving the funding and President Bush signed the legislation surrounded by officials from the African and Caribbean nations the initiative would benefit, as well as Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia who had lost his son to AIDS.  President Bush told those gathered that the “America makes this commitment for a clear reason…we believe in the value and dignity of every human life.” Within five years, millions of lives had been improved through PEPFAR.  The program surpassed its five-year goal by providing more than two million infected women, children, and men with antiretroviral treatments.  PEPFAR also played a major role in preventing an estimated seven million new HIV infections and provided support for more than 10 million individuals affected in some way by HIV/AIDS, including four million children and orphans. Seeing the great value of the initiative, Congress in 2008 appropriated an additional $48 billion to fund PEPFAR through 2013.  At the end of 2010, the initiative was treating 3.2 million infected individuals on an annual basis and 11 million people overall.  PEPFAR provided more than 600,000 pregnant mothers with drugs designed to prevent the transfer of HIV to their babies, resulting in more than 114,000 babies being born HIV-free.  UNAIDS reports that, through PEPFAR and other international efforts, 2010 saw declines in HIV infection rates in 22 African nations and 30 countries overall.  The program’s efforts have also led to a rising number of governments taking greater ownership of treatment and prevention efforts within their own borders. PEPFAR serves as an amazing example of a successfully designed and operated government-sponsored global health initiative.  Building on that success, the George W. Bush Institute will host “The Summit to Save Lives,” an international event designed to mobilize leaders and health systems to advance care for women and children around the world, on Sept. 13-14, 2011.  For more information, click here.


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