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Will Congress Do More for HIV Prevention?
Date:3/28/2008

WASHINGTON, March 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the full House and Senate poised to vote on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reauthorization bill, a five-year, $50 billion initiative to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide, Congress must address the critical HIV prevention shortfalls in the bill.

Progress has been made on expanding access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) since PEPFAR was enacted in 2003. Today, nearly two million more people have access to anti-retroviral medication than five years ago due to U.S. government support. However, some 2.5 million women, men, and children will become newly infected with HIV this year alone--more than the total number of those put on treatment in the past five years of PEPFAR.

Sexual transmission is the single greatest cause of new infections worldwide and is responsible for 80 percent of new infections annually in sub-Saharan Africa. The highest rates of new infections are among women and youth. Ending this pandemic requires that we use every tool available to enable people to protect themselves from infection.

The funding PEPFAR provides for HIV/AIDS is the largest international initiative ever dedicated to a single disease. PEPFAR must invest in strategies that prevent as many infections as possible because it is the right thing to do, and the fiscally responsible approach: According to a 2006 analysis by Science Magazine, preventing each new infection saves a total of $4,700 in foregone treatment and care costs.

Much has been learned from evidence gathered in the first five years of PEPFAR, yet the bills now before Congress continue to reflect ideology and political expediency over proven approaches to saving lives. Ignoring those lessons wastes public resources, leaves more lives at risk and impedes development of a truly sustainable approach to HIV and AIDS. For these reasons, the following changes should be made to the reauthorizat
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SOURCE American Jewish World Service
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