Does Obama’s 2013 Budget Herald the End of PEPFAR?
tagline Spring 2012
Devastating Funding Proposal Undermines the Global Fight Against AIDS
by Coco Jervis
A sense of disbelief washed over the global AIDS community last month when President Obama unveiled his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal to cut $563 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. Cuts of this magnitude could lead to half a million people being denied lifesaving treatment, and countless preventable new infections. Shock and dismay have since given way to frustration; some feel the administration is signaling that an era of U.S. leadership in the global fight against AIDS may be coming to an end.
Since 2003, PEPFAR has been the most efficient and effective global health program in U.S. history. At its outset, millions of people living in sub-Saharan Africa and other low- and middle-income countries were dying of HIV without any hope of access to lifesaving antiretrovirals (ARVs). Entire communities were ravaged by disease, a generation of children was orphaned, and funeral homes could not keep up with demand. The vigilant work of activists brought these images and stories of horrendously suffering people to the world’s attention. When President George W. Bush decided to make the global fight against AIDS an administration priority during his first term in office, PEPFAR was welcomed with unparalleled public and bipartisan congressional support.
By the end of President Bush’s tenure, PEPFAR was arguably his administration’s only foreign policy success. Two million men, women, and children had been put on treatment, over a million lives had been saved, untold numbers of new infections had been averted, and a quarter of a million children had been born free of HIV. Although the program was not without its flaws, the public and Congress were proud of the achievements made by PEPFAR and felt committed to build on its successes. In 2008, the program...