U.S. Congress Introduces Legislation to Extend PEPFAR
Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013. If approved, the bill will extend key provisions of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program for an additional five years and send a strong signal that the United States is firmly committed to the fight against AIDS.
“Millions of people are alive today because of PEPFAR’s success in combating the scourge of HIV and AIDS, especially in Africa. This legislation seeks to reinforce these gains through improved oversight and reporting requirements while also extending provisions that promote greater country ownership and expanded international donor support. As the search for a cure continues, passage of this legislation will aid in PEPFAR’s transition from an emergency U.S.-led effort to one increasingly sustained by individual countries,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), one of the bill’s introducing senators.
The bill would also reaffirm that the United States’ contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund) can be no more than one third of its total funds. This means the Global Fund must leverage the U.S. contribution and raise two thirds of its funding from other government and private donors.
Sen. Corker introduced the legislation along with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). The strong bi-partisan support from the chair and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee underscores that the PEPFAR program is an effective and necessary investment.
“PEPFAR has saved millions of lives over the last ten years and today we recommit ourselves to this critical fight by extending and enhancing this vital program,” said Menendez.
Diverse members of the global HIV/AIDS community including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) also expressed their gratitude to Congress for recommitting to the program.
EGPAF has been a key implementer of PEPFAR-supported programs since its inception and is currently one of the largest providers of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, EGPAF has provided PMTCT and other health services to nearly 17 million women and their babies worldwide. In addition, thanks to PEPFAR, EGPAF-support programs are directly responsible for nearly 20 percent of the 1 million babies that have been born HIV-free since 2003.
The fight against global HIV/AIDS must continue. The release of the UNAIDS Global Report last week reminds us that while we are making incredible gains, there is much work to be done. Each day, 700 children are born HIV-positive and without treatment, 80 percent of them will die before they reach their fifth birthday. However, only 34 percent of eligible HIV-positive children currently have access to treatment they need to remain healthy.
We look forward to working with Congress to strengthen and sustain the PEPFAR program.
Katie Lapides Coester is a Public Policy Officer at EGPAF, based in Washington, D.C.