6 Reasons why Congress should increase global AIDS funding in 2015

US-funded programs are making a huge impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS – and a program called PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief) has been a driving force behind some of that impact over the last decade. Here are six reasons Americans should keep supporting this AIDS fight, especially over the next few weeks as Congress begins their discussions on the US budget for 2015.

Read on, learn something new, and tell Congress to protect our funding to PEPFAR at the end of this post!

1. In just over 10 years, PEPFAR has helped put 6.7 million people on ARVs and protected 1 million babies from HIV.

ARVs, or antiretroviral treatment, allow people living with HIV/AIDS to live healthy and productive lives. And get this: this number represents nearly a four-fold increase (up from 1.7 million in 2008) since the start of the Obama Administration. If you want to see how it makes a real impact in the lives of real people, check out Connie’s story.

20110121-KY-4034PEPFAR has helped put millions of HIV-positive people in the developing world on ARV treatment, allowing them to live healthy lives and have HIV-free children like Bethwel Nyangweso and his son.

2. It’s supported by both Republicans and Democrats

Few, if any, other American policy initiatives have seen such widespread bipartisan support sustained over a decade as programs like PEPFAR. From Democrats to Republicans, members of Congress from across the aisle have seen the global fight against AIDS as something (perhaps one of the only things!) they can all agree on.

PEPFAR has also been a common cause of President Bush, whose steadfast political leadership was critical in PEPFAR’s early years; President Obama, who has expanded treatment and prevention targets; and President Clinton, who has championed the program since leaving office.

congressional HIV/AIDS caucus

3. It has a good reputation

A recent Institute of Medicine study, carefully researched by neutral parties for nearly four years, gave PEPFAR a very positive review in early 2013. It concluded that PEPFAR had been “globally transformative” and had “major positive effects on the health and well-being of individual beneficiaries, on institutions and systems in partner countries, and the overall global response to AIDS.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to protect our US foreign assistance, especially PEPFAR! Sign our petition here.

ONE’s Europe Executive Director Adrian Lovett (L) and UK Campaign Manager Saira O’Mallie (R) deliver a LEGO message to UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening (C). Photo: Department for International Development

4. It plays well with other AIDS-fighting programs

PEPFAR doesn’t just exist in a silo – it’s working with global AIDS programs to expand its reach and effectiveness. Around the same time that PEPFAR got its start, another program, The Global Fund, was also just getting its legs in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria.

Over the years, the two programs have come to rely on each other’s complementary strengths, and now often provide integrated support to clinics and communities around the world. It is also working in tandem with UNAIDS to lead the global effort to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015, and is developing meaningful partnerships with African governments, who are also stepping up their own efforts to fight this disease.

A sign at St. Mary’s Secondary School for Girls in Livingstone, Zambia.

5. It’s evolving with science.

When PEPFAR first started, it employed a prevention strategy known as the ABC method: abstain, be faithful, and use condoms. While the ABC strategy helped prevent HIV infections in some settings, it wasn’t working effectively enough across the board.

But scientific understanding of how to succeed in HIV prevention is improving, and the combination of biomedical tools like voluntary male circumcision for heterosexual men, earlier combination treatment for pregnant women, and preventative antiretroviral therapy for at-risk individuals could revolutionize the way PEPFAR targets and delivers prevention efforts.

Elizabeth Mwangi receives ARVs at Mbgathi District Hospital inA pharmacist measures out ARV drugs for a patient at the Mbgathi District Hospital. Photo credit: Morgana Wingard

6. It hasn’t seen an increase in funding in half a decade.

We have accomplished so much in the fight against HIV/AIDS and we’re gaining momentum, but that doesn’t mean that these gains and forward motion are permanent. Scaling back funding, right at a time when we have more effective tools to fight the disease and in some places can see a tipping point on the horizon, would be devastating to progress, in some cases allowing the virus to resurge where it is currently under control.

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If you want to support US efforts in the fight against AIDS, add your name to our petition urging Congress to increase PEPFAR funding in the FY15 budget as part of their efforts to protect life-saving programs that fight global poverty.

Take action now. Sign the petition here!