What We're Reading: Potential Funding Cuts Would Harm Efforts to Eliminate Pediatric AIDS
April 1, 2011
This week we’re reading articles from Foundation representatives about the potentially harmful effects of U.S. budget cuts to successful programs preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in Africa.
Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed
by Foundation Ambassador Fortunata Kasege
urging Americans to continue supporting these programs. Originally from Tanzania
, Fortunata learned she was HIV-positive when she moved to the U.S. and was pregnant with her first child.
Foundation Ambassador Fortunata
Kasege and her daughter, Florida.
(Photo: Gary He/AP Images for
“I was in the United States, where almost all mothers have access to the medicine necessary to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies,” she wrote. “My healthy seven-pound, 13-ounce baby girl was born just a few months later…she was HIV-negative.”
These medicines weren’t available in Tanzania at the time, and Fortunata knew many mothers whose children died after being infected with HIV during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
But because of programs like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR)
, which provides significant funding for the Foundation, many more mothers living in Tanzania now have the same access to HIV medicines to treat their own HIV infections, and to protect their babies from the virus.
“In 2009, U.S. assistance provided HIV-prevention services to more than 5 million Tanzanians, treatment to more than 200,000 individuals and care for 750,000 people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS,” Fortunata wrote.
Despite these amazing accomplishments in one country alone, all foreign assistance programs combined represent about one percent of the total U.S. federal budget, significantly less than most Americans might realize.
And money going specifically to global health programs is even just a fraction of that 1 percent – a relatively small amount of resources, which has already saved millions of lives.
According to government estimates, proposed funding cuts could lead to as many as 20,000 infants around the world needlessly infected with HIV.
At the same time, U.S. states are cutting back on HIV drug assistance for the needy, even in Fortunata’s home state of Texas. The Houston Chronicle wrote their own editorial this week
urging the state legislature to preserve funding for low-income Texans living with HIV.
Also this week, Voice of America published an interview
with the Foundation’s Country Director for Uganda
– Dr. Edward Bitarakwate – about the success of PEPFAR-funded PMTCT programs in that country.
“Over the last five years alone, the programs have grown from almost nothing to coverage of about 50 percent of all HIV-positive pregnant women in the country,” he said. “Right now, efforts are being made to cover the second half and also to expand the detection of HIV in young children.”
He described how programs have become more efficient in the face of funding shortfalls, but also how severe budget cuts would threaten these lifesaving efforts.
“We’ve tried to devise means of being as cost effective as possible…We are learning to offer more services without increasing our budget…But any cuts in funding would undeniably affect the work that’s being done,” he told VOA.
Click here to take action to preserve funding for global HIV/AIDS programs
– including those aimed at protecting children and women from HIV.
Robert Yule is the Foundation’s Senior Media Relations Manager, based in Washington, D.C.