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7 Things to Know about PEPFAR on World AIDS Day

December 1, 2016 7 minute Read by Crystal Cazier

Today marks World AIDS Day:  a day to honor those lost, celebrate the global progress made in the fight against AIDS, and commit to put an end to the disease.

In 2003, at the signing ceremony for the legislation that enacted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), President George W. Bush said, “We believe in the value and dignity of every human life.  In the face of preventable death and suffering, we have a moral duty to act, and we are acting.”

Since then, PEPFAR has delivered life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to 11.5 million people, and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free with PEPFAR support.

PEPFAR’s success contributes to a coordinated global effort to end AIDS.  UNAIDS reports that since 2000, 18.2 million people have access to treatment for HIV, new infections of HIV have decreased by over 1 million infections, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 1.4 million.  There is real hope for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.  But reaching this goal will require leadership, commitment, and impact to ensure the 36.7 million people living with HIV have access to care, and to prevent new infections. 

Combating the epidemic has required a multidisciplinary approach, and international collaboration.  PEPFAR has evolved since its inception, and has diversified its approach.  Here are just seven things to know about PEPFAR.

PEPFAR Cares for People Living with HIV/AIDS

As of September 2015, 11.5 million people have received life-saving ART through PEPFAR.  ART suppresses the progress of HIV, and helps prevent transmission of HIV to other individuals, or from mothers to babies.  ART also reduces the risk of life-threatening HIV-related infections.  By the end of next year, PEPFAR expects to support 12.9 million individuals with ART.

PEPFAR Provides Services to Prevent New Infections

New HIV infections can be prevented.  While the first phase of PEPFAR’s response was concentrated on emergency relief where the AIDS epidemic was most devastating, the second phase emphasized country-ownership and leadership in the response to HIV/AIDS, and the current phase of PEPFAR, phase three, is focused on controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR provided 74.3 million people with HIV testing and counseling services, and 11.5 million pregnant women received testing and counseling to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, in FY2016.

PEPFAR Takes Care of Children and Orphans

Although incredible progress has been made to end the epidemic, AIDS has had devastating consequences for millions of individuals, whole communities, and nations.  35 million people have died as a result of AIDS.  This crisis left millions of orphans and vulnerable children.  PEPFAR is providing care and support for more than 6.2 million orphans and vulnerable children.

PEPFAR Targets Key Populations for Greatest Impact

By 2030, the youth population in sub-Saharan Africa will have doubled from the start of the HIV epidemic in 1990.  Girls account for 75 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.  PEPFAR estimates that today, on World AIDS Day, 1,000 girls will be newly infected with HIV

DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women) is a $385 million partnership among PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others, to reduce HIV infections among girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries by strengthening families, mobilizing communities for change, and empowering adolescent girls and young women and reduce their risk.  

PEPFAR Plays a Crucial Role in Public-Private Partnerships that Address HIV/AIDS-Related Disease

PEPFAR is a crucial partner in numerous collaborative efforts to end AIDS, and reduce the effects of diseases closely linked to HIV/AIDS, including tuberculosis (TB) and cervical cancer.  PEPFAR is the largest donor to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and works closely with UNAIDS to align efforts and maximize investments.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an independent affiliate of the Bush Institute, builds on the success and infrastructure of PEPFAR.  As a founding member of the partnership, PEPFAR has committed $17 million to provide screening and treatment services for cervical cancer in sub-Saharan African countries where Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon works. 

Women have benefited from the progress against HIV/AIDS in recent years, yet remain vulnerable to cervical cancer.  A woman living with HIV is five times more likely to develop cervical cancer than her HIV-negative peers.  With the crucial support of PEPFAR, other partners, and local civil-society, community groups and key leaders, coupled with country leadership, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is developing country-led, sustainable solutions to allow women to get the care they need to not only survive, but thrive.

PEPFAR Strengthens Health Systems and Advances Effective Policy

PEPFAR has not only invested in services for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, but in building health infrastructure and promoting policy necessary to strengthen and ensure sustainability.  PEPFAR has invested in clinic and laboratory facilities, trained over 220,000 health care workers to deliver quality health services, and assisted countries to improve data systems and reporting.  Improving health infrastructure and capacity has benefits not just for HIV/AIDS, but for whole healthcare systems.

PEPFAR is a Reflection of the Compassion of Americans

Nearly 14 years after it was announced, PEPFAR still represents the largest commitment by any country to address a single disease, and has benefited from overwhelming bilateral support.  The United States invested over $72 billion between FY2003-2015 to address HIV/AIDS and related diseases.  At the 2008 bill signing ceremony for the legislation that extended PEPFAR, President Bush said, “[PEPFAR] embodies the extraordinary compassion of the American people.  We are a compassionate nation.”

The Bush Center joins the international community in celebrating the progress toward ending AIDS by 2030, and encourages continued U.S. leadership, commitment and impact to reach this ambiguous, yet attainable goal.


Crystal Cazier
Crystal Cazier

Crystal Cazier serves as Program Manager for the Global Health Initiative and for Evaluation and Research at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, she helps coordinate the Bush Institute’s involvement in The Partnership to End AIDS and Cervical Cancer, a collaboration of the Bush Institute, PEPFAR, and UNAIDS that works with eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa to prioritize HIV-positive women in national cervical cancer prevention and control programs. She also serves on the research and evaluation team which supports programming across the Bush Institute.

Before joining the Bush Institute, Crystal worked as a Clinical Research Associate at Carle Cancer Center in Urbana, Illinois where she managed budgetary and contractual negotiations for both pharmaceutical and government-sponsored clinical trials. 

Crystal received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

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