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14 Things to Know About the Life-Saving Work of PEPFAR on its 14th Anniversary

Facts about PEPFAR, which has lead the progress in the global campaign to end AIDS.

Article by Crystal Cazier May 26, 2017 //   6 minute read

This weekend marks the 14th anniversary of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President George W. Bush signed into law on May 27, 2003 as part of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003.

Since then PEPFAR has saved nearly 12 million lives.

Here’s a look at 14 interesting facts about PEPFAR, which has lead the progress in the global campaign to end AIDS.

  • In 2003, at the signing of the PEPFAR legislation, less than 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were on antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS, now 11.5 million individuals are on ART due to PEPFAR.
  • 99.5 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving ART, a more than 40 percent increase since the beginning of 2014. This has led to nearly 2 million babies being born HIV-free to infected mothers.
  • Since the start of PEPFAR, new HIV Infections have declined 51 to 76 percent.
  • Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can reduce men’s risk of HIV by approximately 60 percent. PEPFAR has supported more than 11.7 million VMMC procedures, and expects to reach its 2017 target of 13million.
  • PEPFAR was born of the ideology of compassionate conservativism. President Bush defines this philosophy and approach: “It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results. And with this hopeful approach, we will make a real difference in people’s lives.” During the signing ceremony in May 2003, President Bush emphasized this perspective, stating, “America makes this commitment for a clear reason, directly rooted in our founding. We believe in the value and dignity of every human life.”
  • One of the greatest challenges to the progress of PEPFAR is the “youth bulge” in sub-Saharan Africa. By the year 2030, the youth population in sub-Saharan Africa will have doubled from the start of the HIV epidemic in 1990. PEPFAR is developing programming to help young people stay HIV-free.
  • The population most vulnerable to new HIV infection is adolescent girls and young women. Girls and young women account for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership is working to change this by helping girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe Women.
  • Since leaving office, President Bush has been to Africa seven times, and Mrs. Bush has been six times. Their latest trip highlighted the progress and importance of PEPFAR. Watch the video from their most recent trip in April 2017.
  • In 2000, at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, then-President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, illustrated the devastation of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, saying, "We really are in a national crisis. We are threatened with extinction. People are dying in chillingly high numbers. We are losing the best of young people. It is a crisis of the first magnitude." On President Bush’s most recent trip to Botswana, Presidents Bush and Mogae celebrated the progress of Botswana to control the AIDS epidemic.
  • HIV weakens the immune system. PEPFAR has joined forces with public-private partnerships to address co-infections and co-morbidities of HIV/AIDS. Women living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Following the success of PEPFAR, President and Mrs. Bush founded Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in 2011 to address this problem. PEPFAR is among the founding organizations of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership.
  • President Bush and Bono have often joined efforts to fight AIDS. Just last year, Bono said of PEPFAR: “The American people have done this before. They’ve taken on really impossible tasks and succeeded. And the battle in the fight against AIDS was won successfully. It’s an amazing thing. America leads the world in the fight against AIDS. Nearly 10 million lives are owed to America. So you can do it. It’s difficult stuff, but you’re up to the job."
  • In November 2015, the Bipartisan Policy Center published a study of PEPFAR as a case for strategic health diplomacy. Among other findings, the report included evidence that: PEPFAR has enhanced the public opinion of the United States; countries receiving PEPFAR support scored better on socio-economic indices by limiting the loss of human capacity; and, PEPFAR enhanced security, stability, and governance. The report cites World Bank data, “since 2004, PEPFAR countries in Sub-Saharan Africa reduced political instability and violent activity by 40 percent compared with only 3 percent among non-PEPFAR countries.”
  • PEPFAR has received incredible bi-partisan support  PEPFAR was started by President Bush, expanded under President Barak Obama, and retains bi-partisan Congressional support during a current presidential administration that seems skeptical of foreign aid spending.
  • In a recent Washington Post oped, President Bush stressed the importance of fully funding PEPFAR, writing “Saving nearly 12 million lives is proof that PEPFAR works, and I urge our government to fully fund it. We are on the verge of an AIDS-free generation, but the people of Africa still need our help.”

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