President Praised for Creating PEPFAR; However, Proposed Changes in
Priorities Cut Heart from Lifesaving Effort
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As President Bush begins a five-country tour of Africa to visit and highlight programs funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the five year-old US global AIDS program which Congress created at his request, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) (http://www.aidshealth.org) today cautioned the President that his legacy as a leader in the global fight against HIV and AIDS is at risk due to proposed changes in the priorities of PEPFAR that essentially cut the heart out of this lifesaving AIDS care and treatment program. PEPFAR is currently up for reauthorization by Congress. The bill, which will be marked up by the Committee on Foreign Relations next week, eliminates a requirement that 55% of the funding be spent on providing AIDS medical care.
"AHF welcomes the renewal of this landmark global AIDS program -- widely expected to be among the President's most lasting and favorable legacies -- however, we are concerned that the legislation to reauthorize PEPFAR eliminates the requirement that a majority of funding be spent on providing lifesaving AIDS medical care," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "In fact, while the proposed bill more than triples the amount of money available, it only calls for PEPFAR to support increasing the number of people on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment by half, and makes no provision for HIV testing in order to locate those with the virus and get them into treatment. With over 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, these changes in PEPFAR's priorities will set back efforts to control the virus, consigning tens of millions of people to death, creating hundreds of thousands of AIDS orphans in the process. We strongly urge the President and Congress to work together to ensure that we do not squander the progress that PEPFAR has already made in the global fight against AIDS."
PEPFAR was the result of President Bush's groundbreaking 2003 State of the Union pledge to bring two million HIV positive Africans and others into treatment and prevent seven million new HIV infections via a five-year, $15 billion US-funded program. It currently operates in 15 focus countries and claims to support antiretroviral treatment for 1.4 million people worldwide.
"We know this: without access to antiretroviral treatment, AIDS is a fatal disease. By seeking to do so many worthy things -- nutrition aid, legal empowerment of women, care for orphans and vulnerable children -- it virtually guarantees that none of it will be done right, and none of these problems will be significantly alleviated, much less solved," said Tom Myers, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's General Counsel. "As a result, PEPFAR will fall far short of its intended goal -- if not outright fail in its attempt -- all but guaranteeing the perpetuation of the global AIDS crisis."
During the Africa trip, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush plan to visit Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 62,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org
|SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation|
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