On March 11, 2010, amfAR’s Public Policy Office helped organize a Capitol Hill hearing on the importance of increased HIV/AIDS global health funding for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. The following press release describes the hearing.
Global Health Advocates to Congress: Keep U.S. Commitment to HIV/AIDS Funding
Actress Debra Messing, front-line health activists highlight PEPFAR successes, warn of critical treatment problems without proper funding
WASHINGTON (March 11, 2010)—International health experts, front-line health care workers, and prominent activists on Thursday called on the United States to fully fund its global health commitments, urging Congress to build on global health successes in HIV/AIDS that already have saved millions of lives and cautioning that insufficient funding could have catastrophic consequences.
Witnesses who testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, including actress Debra Messing, global AIDS ambassador for Population Services International (PSI), and Peter Mugyenyi, M.D., director and founder of Uganda’s Joint Clinical Research Center, told members of Congress that the U.S. must commit to the promises it made when it created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has saved millions of lives through prevention and treatment programs since it began in 2003.
“Today’s hearing on HIV/AIDS was a great chance to evaluate our existing approach and take a serious look at the challenges ahead,” said Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), chairman of the committee. “PEPFAR has had remarkable success in fighting AIDS around the world, and we must move forward with continued conviction to see lives saved. We must not and will not lose momentum.”
Mugyenyi, who helped conceive PEPFAR and was at the White House during the signing of the PEPFAR legislation, reminded lawmakers that the AIDS crisis is still critical in Africa—and particularly in his home country of Uganda.
“AIDS in much of Africa is still an emergency,” Mugyenyi said. “It continues to be the biggest killer of women of reproductive age in Africa. In Uganda, we have come very far—but we’re less than half way there.”
“Unfortunately, over the last two years, PEPFAR funding has flat-lined. New PEPFAR contract awards emphasize treatment for only those already on it and only very limited slots for new patients.”
Mugyenyi said that, in Uganda, only 170,000 adults out of an estimated 350,000 who need immediate, life-saving antiretroviral therapy are actually receiving it. He said funding for PEPFAR needs to be commensurate with the expanded need for treatment, otherwise successful gains in US global AIDS efforts risk reversal.
Messing, who recently traveled to Zimbabwe with PSI and UNAIDS staff, said that her visit reinforced the fact that PEPFAR investments were paying off “in dramatic ways.”
“I urge your ongoing robust support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund so that we can halt the spread of HIV and comprehensively expand access to HIV prevention, care and treatment,” Messing told the members in her concluding remarks.
Messing, Mugyenyi, and others welcomed the vision of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative but warned inadequate funding could dismantle successful programming and prevent the administration for reaching the proposed laudable goals.