Celebrating 10 Years of Progress with PEPFAR

EGPAF Ambassador Martha Sichone-Cameron speaks at a briefing celebrating 10 years of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on May 14.

EGPAF

In honor of Mother’s Day, members of the faith community, U.S. legislators, and PEPFAR leadership gathered on Capitol Hill on May 14 to celebrate 10 years of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina); Ambassador Dr. Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative, Office of Global Health Diplomacy; and Craig McClure, Chief of HIV/AIDS Program Division, UNICEF, were guest speakers at the event. Their remarks were followed by a panel discussion that included:

The discussion was moderated by Anita Smith, Executive Director of the Children’s AIDS Fund.

The group discussed the global health community’s commitment to the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive. Partnerships with faith-based organizations (FBOs) is crucial to achieving the end of pediatric HIV and limiting the number of new HIV infections.

Since its inception in 2003, PEPFAR’s impact on the lives of men, women, and children around the world has been dramatic. Ten years ago, AIDS had orphaned 14 million children around the world. As parents lost their lives to the disease, child-headed households in sub-Saharan Africa became increasingly common. Responding to the challenge, Pres. George W. Bush announced a $15 billion program for AIDS control, treatment, care, and prevention. This funding included support for FBOs, which are often uniquely positioned to build on existing relationships and influence the attitudes and behaviors of the communities they serve. These partnerships are valu¬able assets in the fight against HIV/AIDS, particularly for women who may have not have access to other resources.

One woman who directly benefited from PEPFAR’s partnerships with FBOs is EGPAF Ambassador Martha Sichone-Cameron. As a panelist at the event, Martha shared her own experience as an HIV-positive woman living in Zambia, a country crippled by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2003, as Martha was working to establish a Zambian nonprofit committed to supporting orphaned children and widows, she fell ill and was officially diagnosed with HIV. Martha was already all too familiar with the disease’s impact on families and communities –she had witnessed countless friends and family members lose their battle with HIV/AIDS, including her mother.

However, Martha’s diagnosis took her down a different path. Thanks to PEPFAR and its work with FBOs and partners like EGPAF in Zambia, Martha received the treatment she needed to live a healthy and active lifestyle. After regaining her health, Martha helped her church start an HIV support group for children, women, and families affected by HIV and AIDS; the program focused on helping women find the services they needed to prevent the transmission of HIV to their children. Once Martha was ready to start a family, she was able to access prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services that helped ensure she would not pass on her infection to her husband or her children.

“I wouldn’t be here today without PEPFAR and its partnerships with NGOs like EGPAF, and faith organizations,” Martha said. “I thought I would never experience the gift of motherhood, but then I was introduced to lifesaving services that would help HIV-positive women have healthy children. It felt like a miracle – I could protect the man I loved and ensure that my children would be HIV-free.”

As of September 30, 2012, the United States has supported lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for nearly 5.1 million men, women, and children worldwide. In 2012 alone, PEPFAR made antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV available to 750,000 women, allowing approximately 230,000 infants to be born HIV-free. In addition, PEPFAR supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women in 2012.

Thanks to PEPFAR and the tireless work of its all partners, we are on the path to achieving an AIDS-free generation. We can end new HIV infections among children by 2015, and we can ensure that women living with HIV stay healthy during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding.

Johanna Harvey is a Senior Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.