Monday, November 30, 2009

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day; Obama administration says progress is being made

From ABC News:

On the eve of World AIDS Day, and amidst criticism, administration officials today touted the “major accomplishments” made on combating HIV/ADS, but also noted that “much more has to be done.”

Citing statistics: President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR’s) efforts providing life-saving antiretroviral treatment to over 2 million men, women, and children worldwide and PEPFAR's efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission have helped nearly 240,000 HIV-positive mothers give birth to children who are HIV-free; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is clear that the nation’s investments are having an impact.

“And President Obama is dedicated to enhancing America's leadership in the fight against global AIDS, with PEPFAR serving as the cornerstone of our global health initiative to promote better and more sustainable health outcomes,” Clinton said today.

Yet the Obama administration is facing large criticism from global AIDS and Africa solidarity organizations – today smacking the White House with a D+ rating on the work President Obama has done so far in office.

“With new data showing that worldwide the number one killer of women of reproductive age is HIV, aggressive scale up of AIDS treatment is needed more than ever for the health of communities,” said Asia Russell, Health GAP Director of International Policy. “We are disappointed to report that on his first World AIDS Day in office, President Obama has not made good on his promises to increase funding for effective, life saving programs to fight AIDS around the world.”

Secretary Clinton steered clear of any dollar figures coming out of the White House, not noting that the actual administration investment into PEPFAR will be less next year than what candidate Obama promised, but indicated that the administration is trying to do more, with less.

“Our investments in PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and overall global health have made a positive difference and we will continue our support, but we have to do more. We have to make sure that our programs foster conditions that improve people's lives and in turn promote stability, prosperity, and security. In this time of very tight budgets in our own government and our own people suffering from unemployment, from other kinds of cutbacks in services, we have to do more even here at home. We've seen some of the results of the cutbacks that are happening at the state and local level. So while we're talking about our commitment internationally, let's not forget our fellow citizens who are suffering right now.”

The report, released by Health GAP, Africa Action, Treatment Action Group and the Global AIDS Alliance takes the biggest issue with funding.

““Despite repeated public commitments to expand funding for successful global AIDS programs, the first budget request to Congress prepared by President Obama, for FY2010, would for the first time essentially flat-fund U.S. global AIDS investments—it will not even keep pace with global medical inflation, estimated at 4-10% this year,” the report found.

Later this week Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, MD, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator will present the five-year strategy for the future of PEPFAR, outlining the important role that PEPFAR will play in transitioning from emergency response to sustainable health systems that help meet the broad medical needs of people with HIV and the communities in which they live.

“In its next phase, PEPFAR programs will support a comprehensive whole-of-government approach in many countries to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and get services to people at earlier stages,” Clinton said.

The strategy, Goosby says, will be followed by a release of annexes providing more detail on evidence based prevention, operational programs, and increased capacity building efforts. The emphasis being on the transition on from emergency response to sustainability.

“PEPFAR’s five-year strategy will focus on sustainability, and sustainable responses,” Goosby says, “programs that are country-owned and country driven.”

With the repeal of the HIV entry ban in October by the administration, the International AIDS Society will now hold the 2010 International AIDS conference in Washington, DC – drawing together an estimated 30,000 researchers, scientists, policy-makers, health care providers, activists and others from around the world.

In a press release issues today the Health GAP, Africa Action, Treatment Action Group and the Global AIDS Alliance called the lifting of the travel ban “superficial when contrasted with the AIDS promises the Administration is breaking.”

A large red ribbon has hung on the North Portico of the White House since Nov. 28 – and will remain for the day Dec. 1.