The HIV 'emergency' isn't over, says PEPFAR chief

Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. global AIDS coordinator and director of the largest initiative to combat a single disease, talks data, PEPFAR's future and the AIDS emergency we still face in this video interview.

When the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief launched 12 years ago, it managed to galvanize rapid support, to the tune of $15 billion dollars over five years. The word “emergency” in the program’s title broadcast an unambiguous signal about the scale of the global health challenge.

Now that the world has made massive progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS, does that sense of urgency still exist? Should it?

Devex spoke with Ambassador Deborah Birx, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator who directs PEPFAR, the largest-ever commitment by any country to combat a single disease. The global development community has a choice to make between two possible futures, Birx told Devex. Whether we choose the one without over 2 million AIDS-related deaths per year will depend in part on the sense of urgency with which we treat the ongoing HIV and AIDS challenge.

The forthcoming sustainable development goals will likely include a target of eliminating AIDS as an epidemic in the next 15 years. The obstacles to doing so are vast. We spoke with the leader of the world’s largest HIV/AIDS relief program to learn how she’s pushing PEPFAR — and its partners — toward better results.

While the global development community transitions towards a post-2015 agenda, PEPFAR is itself undergoing a transition — toward greater focus on country ownership, data-driven priorities and integrated HIV and AIDS treatment and preventions programs. Birx offered her view on how those transitions continue to play out within the signature U.S. health initiative.

What does the future hold for U.S. global health programs and for the future of the fight against HIV and AIDS? Data for better results, at multiple scales is a big piece of the puzzle, Birx told Devex in this exclusive interview.

Devex, in partnership with the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, is exploring the progress and potential of making U.S. foreign assistance more effective. To explore additional content, visit the Reform for Results website and tweet #Reform4Results.

About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.