Will a new decade bring new priorities for PEPFAR?

A United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief plaque at a shelter for abused women and children in South Africa. The U.S. program spent $215 million on projects that address gender-based violence. Photo by: USAID Southern Africa / CC BY-NC

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is entering a new decade.

And as the fight against AIDS is expanding to a broader and more comprehensive battle for increased access to health care, prevention and more inclusive treatment, we’ll be seeing more programs that “don’t look like PEPFAR,” according to the fund’s current manager.

Deborah von Zinkernagel, acting U.S. global AIDS coordinator, elaborated on the need for an vision that goes beyond drug delivery and treatment.

“I think the mandate of PEPFAR obviously is to support governments, national governments, in establishing and maintaining a strong national AIDS response,” she said on Thursday during hosted by the World Bank. “And doing that you’re talking about vulnerabilities to HIV infection, you’re looking at what puts people in the path of this virus, what helps them to be resilient in addressing it, and also what helps them to access the services that we can make available, which are funded … but if you can’t get to them, if you can’t use them, they’re not going to help you at all.”

Von Zinkernagel said that the fund’s renewed gender strategy would be critical to these efforts, because it addresses “the structural drivers, and how we can intervene and support countries in strategies that reduce environments for violence.”

“That does involve legal reform, it involves things that don’t look like PEPFAR, but I think that we know that we have to be working in that space as well,” she added.

About $300 million in PEPFAR funds have gone to similar programs over the last four years, including $215 million for programs that address gender-based violence alone. The PEPFAR reauthorization that was signed into law in December didn’t include amounts for funding, which will come in future spending bills. However, based on the changing nature of the AIDS fight, more funding to address the “structural drivers” of the disease will likely be what aid officials are asking for. Getting too far from its traditional drug-delivery and treatment role could be risky for PEPFAR, though, if such a strategy gets less support from Congress.

Let us know what you think about what the fund’s role in the global AIDS fight should be in the next decade in the comments below.

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About the author

  • Paul Stephens

    Paul Stephens is a former Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost, and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia: one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.