The global health community is applauding the release of a new U.S. blueprint for the global fight against HIV and AIDS on Thursday, Nov. 29, although some are disappointed about the lack of additional funding commitments.
Closely held by the Obama administration, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief blueprint’s release had been highly anticipated by the global health community, especially in the U.S. capital.
For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called for the blueprint earlier this year and is being hailed as its “visionary architect,” this may be one of the last big accomplishments before what is expected to be her imminent departure.
The blueprint outlines the United States’ role and contribution, through PEPFAR, in working toward an AIDS-free generation, which Clinton, at Tuesday’s launch event, defined as “virtually no children are born with the virus.” This is why the elimination of HIV infections in children and the prevention of its transmission from mother to child will remain a clear focus of the United States’ global HIV work. The blueprint also highlights the importance of scientific guidance and country-led solutions to tailor effective interventions to specific (especially high-risk) target populations, to scale up treatment and prevention combination, and to achieve efficient and sustainable solutions around the world.
“In the past few years, we have developed new HIV prevention and treatment tools and are continuing to learn how best to apply these tools to reduce new HIV infections and extend the lives of those living with HIV,” said Tim Mastro, group director of global health, population and nutrition for FHI 360, a major partner of the U.S. government in implementing health projects abroad. “The blueprint provides solid guidance on how best to use science to direct the smart, sustained investments that will be required to build on the progress made to date.”
Aid groups hope that the U.S. plan will serve as a blueprint for other countries as well.
“It shows other countries that they should do more,” Erin Hohlfelder, ONE’s global health policy director, told Devex. As ONE outlined in a report published Tuesday, Nov. 27, several countries in the European Union and elsewhere haven’t lived up to their commitment to the global fight against HIV.
Hohlfelder and others are particularly pleased with the continued U.S. support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which together with PEPFAR provide the vast majority of global HIV funding.
On the issue of funding, responses from the aid community were mixed. Martha Newstone, World Vision’s global health director, told Devex she was hoping the Obama administration would soon release more information on the financial resources to back the new commitments, which includes working toward the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
The blueprint also reaffirms PEPFAR’s focus on mother-to-child transmissions, prevention as treatment, male circumcision, and increased access to HIV testing, counseling and medication.
The United States, Hohlfelder said, is leveraging its political capital on this issue, and pushing the debate away from just containing the disease to actually achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Last year, President Barack Obama did make some commitments on HIV treatment and prevention at a World AIDS Day event ONE co-hosted at George Washington University. But this is a step forward, AIDS activists agreed.
One interesting aspect of the blueprint, Hohlfelder noted, is its focus on on country-by-country models to shows what it would look like if HIV prevention and other services were scaled up — a strategy that, one global health expert said, would drive the point home with developing world leaders that a robust strategy to combat the disease can be good economic policy as well.
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