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‘Debate on PEPFAR puts global HIV/AIDS interventions at risk’

by Haruna Gimba
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By Asmau Ahmad

The Gates Foundation has expressed optimism that the United States would support and provide resources to sustain the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme. 

Chief Executive Officer, Gates Foundation, Mr Mark Suzman, said this during a news conference held on the sidelines of the Goalkeepers Conference in New York. 

Suzman said that political debate on PEPFAR had put the initiative at risk, noting that programme was a lifesaving intervention, thus the debate was unfounded.

“Some political leaders are implying that PEPFAR is being used to provide or support an abortion agenda, which many conservatives in the United States oppose, but that’s just factually untrue. 

“PEPFAR does not do that. It’s focused on saving lives and we hope and I’ll say cautiously confident, that actually the U.S. will end up re-upping its support and providing the necessary resources to keep PEPFAR going as a signature initiative,” he said. 

He noted that PEPFAR had assisted to reduce the cost of antiretrovirals and had helped save tens of millions of lives, especially in Africa.

“And so, if that’s (PEPFAR) a threat, then it’s difficult to build the big new coalitions that the world needs across these other broader health interventions and in other areas like education. 

“So, yes, we’re concerned. I feel confident PEPFAR will actually be reauthorised, but it’s a sign of how challenging the global environment is to get resources for something that is so self-evidently a great public good,” he said. 

PEPFAR is a United States government initiative to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease.

Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has invested over 100 billion dollars in the global HIV/AIDS response, the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history.

The programme has saved over 25 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and accelerated progress toward controlling the global HIV/AIDS pandemic in more than 50 countries.

PEPFAR, first created in 2003 by President George Bush, had been reauthorised three times, however, lately, it had been bogged with allegations of its funding being used to indirectly support abortions.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Africa bears the heaviest burden of HIV/AID globally. 

UNAIDS said that 4000 adolescent girls and young women acquired HIV every single week, and 3,100 of those infected are from Africa.

Suzman, therefore, advised Nigeria and other countries to prioritise investment in health and education, noting that there is high return on investment on health and human capital development. 

He noted that innovations discovered by researchers supported by the foundation to reduce maternal mortality were simple, affordable, and scalable and estimated to save two million lives by 2030.

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