Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PEPFAR 7 Years On

Since it was launched in 2003, the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has made a serious dent in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. At the 18th World AIDS Conference in Vienna this month, former US President Bill Clinton and Bill Gates praised the impact that PEPFAR has had on the fight against the disease. PEPFAR represents the largest effort by any nation to combat a single disease-a 2008 reauthorization act boosted the PEPFAR budget to over $48 billion for the 2008-2013 period. However, PEPFARs work is far from straight forward. I thought that a brief article on the specific aspects of their work would help make sure everyone is on the same page.

15 focus countries, the ones with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, receive the lions share of the PEPFAR funding. These countries include Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia. The remaining money is either spent on AIDS research, given to prevention/treatment programs in other countries, or to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The ABC and PMTCT methods are the main prevention programs sponsored by PEPFAR. The ABC approach stands for Abstinence, Be faithful to your partner, and the use of Condoms. The PMTCT intervention program stands for prevention of mother to child transmission (PEPFAR work in this method has prevented 16 million mother-to-child transmissions). When all is said and done, PEPFAR prevention programs have prevented an estimated 7 million new infections.

In 2009, there were 1.2 million people receiving life saving therapy for HIV/AIDS. In 2010, the WHO estimates that over 5.2 million people are receiving treatment, of which 2 million are supported by PEPFAR treatment programs. These programs include treating people for opportunistic infections, such as malaria and TB, paying for the personnel involved in administering the treatments( from the clinicians to the peer educators), updating medical facilities, and providing antiretroviral therapies. In addition, counseling is provided to help infected people with issues such as financial stability, with special attention being paid to orphans and vulnerable children.

PEPFAR is making a big difference in the fight against AIDS. Outside researchers estimate that PEPFAR programs have reduced the AIDS infection rate in focus countries by over 10%. However, continued support is necessary. Even though the number of people receiving treatment has gone up dramatically in the past year, nearly 85% of those infected are still not getting the help they need.

-Matthew Thwaites

SOURCES: About PEPFAR, "PEPFAR in Africa: An Evaluation of Outcomes"- Public Medical Journal, "Bill Clinton on HIV/AIDS: Much More Needs to be Done"-Voice of America