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A young Zambian girl receives a dose of the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer.

Two-Minute Take: PEPFAR Matters to Americans

May 23, 2018 by Holly Kuzmich
Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute Holly Kuzmich shares how PEPFAR has impacted millions of lives and what the new partnership with UNAIDS means for the program.

Why does PEPFAR matter to Americans? 

First, PEPFAR is an investment that the American people have been making that lets others know we care about human life. When it was first put in place, the United States had good access to life-saving drugs at a relatively affordable cost to treat AIDS, and millions on the continent of Africa were dying solely because they didn’t have access to these same drugs. Letting your place of birth determine whether you would live or not is a patently unfair and unjust reality. PEPFAR came at the height of the HIV pandemic – when an entire generation was threatened with extinction – and kept countries from the brink of despair. In fact, because of PEPFAR over 14 million people are now living with HIV who would have otherwise died. 

In addition to the moral imperative to help our fellow man, investing in global health is a smart thing to do from an economic, health, and security perspective.  AIDS was ravaging countries and entire populations of people, which brings instability. PEPFAR has turned that around. Our investments have also supported the infrastructure of health care systems in Africa, which allows them to better handle other health outbreaks that now quickly reach our shores.  For example, the grave losses suffered during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 are predominantly attributed to weak healthcare systems; but countries whose healthcare systems are more robust and responsive, due in large part to PEPFAR investments, were better prepared to quickly control the outbreak. As Ebola rears again in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s healthcare system will be tested. 

Tell us about the new partnership with PEPFAR and UNAIDS. 

After President Bush left office and continued to travel to Africa, he noted the successes he was seeing on the ground on HIV/AIDS.  Yet another challenge was still looming—women were living with HIV but dying from cervical cancer.  Women living with HIV are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer, and it is the number one cancer killer of women in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Over the past 7 years, the Bush Institute has been working through our Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon program to address cervical cancer on the ground and has achieved some significant results: over half a million women screened and 150,000 girls vaccinated against HPV, which causes most cases of cervical cancer.  But we also knew we could do more, so we spent the past year reviewing our strategy in coordination with PEPFAR to determine how we could have even more impact. 

That resulted in our new partnership with PEPFAR and UNAIDS, the Partnership to End AIDS and Cervical Cancer, which will focus even more acutely on ending cervical cancer for HIV positive women.  We will engage with country governments to ensure that HIV positive women and girls are the priority in national cancer control plans and programs, work to secure increased investments for HPV vaccinations, and convene leaders to assess and improve implementation efforts. PEPFAR is making an initial $30 million investment for cervical cancer in eight countries with high HIV prevalence, a three-fold increase over previous investments. This allows us to reach more women in more countries and build this vaccination, screening, and treatment into the health care systems that are also delivering HIV/AIDS screening and treatment.


Holly Kuzmich
Holly Kuzmich

Holly Kuzmich serves as Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute and Senior Vice President at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. She oversees the strategy and management of the Bush Institute, an action-oriented policy organization that cultivates leaders, fosters policies to solve today’s most pressing challenges, and takes action to save and change lives. Specific areas of focus within the Institute include education reform, economic growth, human freedom and democracy, global health, the military service initiative, the women’s initiative, and the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.  Holly also serves as a member of the management team of the Bush Center, leading strategic planning and budgeting and board relations.

Previously, she was Vice President and COO of Margaret Spellings & Company, a public policy consulting firm with a specialty in education and workforce issues at the national, state, and local levels.  Holly also served as the Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education.  In those roles, she served as the main liaison with Congress, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget on education policy issues including the No Child Left Behind Act and the Higher Education Act and oversaw policy development within the agency.

Holly came to the Department from the White House Domestic Policy Council, where she served as Associate Director for Education. Prior to that, she spent five years working in the U.S. Senate on domestic policy issues. 

A native of South Bend, Indiana, she received her bachelor's degree from Northwestern University.

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