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Are Obama Administration Policies Undermining Global AIDS and Health Responses?

Alarming comments by new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby, may offer clues

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Later today, Ambassador Eric Goosby will be sworn in as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. "While we welcome Ambassador Goosby to his new post, and look forward to working with him on a broad range of issues that affect the health and well-being of the world's vulnerable populations, there are a number of as-yet unanswered questions about the true commitment of the Obama Administration to global AIDS and health, including PEPFAR [President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief]," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, GAA executive director.

"Ambassador Goosby's appointment comes at a critical time, when President Obama's own commitment to global AIDS and health is in doubt," said Zeitz. "Indeed, recent alarming comments by Ambassador Goosby are causing advocates to question the direction and commitment to global AIDS and health that will be included in the President's new Global Health Initiative, which we expect to be announced in October," Zeitz continued.

For example, in an interview with the Inter Press Service News Agency in Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 12, 2009 {}, Ambassador Goosby seemed to signal that the U.S. government is backing off of its commitment to universal access to lifesaving antiretroviral medications or ARVs in southern Africa. Ambassador Goosby said that "the resources that are required to respond to the large number of individuals who need to be put on ARVs by 2015 will not be met." The year 2015 is a longstanding global target for universal access to ARVs and prevention programs.

AIDS and global health advocates in Africa and elsewhere are troubled by what they see happening in the Obama Administration. "On my recent trips to African countries that receive AIDS funding from the U.S. government, I've seen first hand that the new direction of the Obama Administration -- most importantly, the scaling back of funding for HIV prevention and treatment -- is having a devastating effect on the morale of people living with HIV/AIDS in those countries," said Zeitz. "They know that the budget and policy decisions currently being made in Washington will translate into needless deaths in their countries."

Zeitz believes that there is an emerging consensus within the global health advocacy community that the Obama Administration has decided to phase out support for PEPFAR, a signature initiative of the Administration of President George W. Bush, and to replace it with a global AIDS spending program that would fall within the scope of Mr. Obama's own signature Global Health Initiative. "While GAA would support an Obama Global Health Initiative that provided increased levels of support for global AIDS and other critical health priorities, including maternal, reproductive and child health, such an Initiative should also build on the positive aspects of the prior U.S. global AIDS investments rather that reversing progress along the way," said Zeitz.

"Regardless of the funding mechanism, backing off of universal access to AIDS treatment and prevention programs will have tragic, fatal consequences for millions of people around the world who are alive today due to ARVs supplied through U.S. programs," said Zeitz. "As a clinician himself, Ambassador Goosby understands these issues, and we call on his natural instincts as a physician and a humanitarian to advocate from within the Obama Administration on behalf of the world's most vulnerable populations," he said.

Congress has an important role to play in assuring continuity in the country's response to global AIDS and health. "We especially call on Congress to hold President Obama accountable for fulfilling the intent of PEPFAR legislation as a critical part of the new Obama Global Health Initiative, rather that collapsing a successful effort in order to pursue other priorities," said Zeitz.


GAA Fact Sheet on President Obama's Four Broken Campaign Promises:

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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