At Least 25,000 HIV-Positive People on Antiretroviral Drugs Because of PEPFAR, Congressional Report Says
At least 25,000 HIV-positive people have begun receiving antiretroviral drugs under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief since the program began distributing funds to organizations and governments in February, according to an interim report delivered to two congressional committees last week, the Washington Post reports (Brown, Washington Post, 9/14). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding to 12 African nations -- Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia -- as well as Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). According to the report, which covered nine of the countries targeted by PEPFAR, the program has "directly" funded antiretrovirals for 18,800 HIV-positive people and "indirectly" funded antiretrovirals for another 6,100 people in the nine countries studied, the Post reports. A final report that will take into account all 15 countries covered by PEPFAR is expected to be available by the fall, according to the Post. Mark Dybul, an AIDS researcher at NIH and chief medical officer of PEPFAR, said that the program is "moving incredibly rapidly," adding, "To support 25,000 people in such a short time is virtually unheard of." Randall Tobias, head of the State Department's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, said that "despite all the obstructions of getting something like this up and running, ... there is every reason to believe that we are on target to meet the goals that we have laid out." Dybul added that the lack of "manpower and expertise" -- rather than the cost of antiretrovirals -- has been the project's primary challenge to getting more people on antiretroviral drugs, according to the Post.
New PEPFAR Goals
PEPFAR administrators have set a new goal of providing antiretrovirals for 200,000 people by June 2005, the Post reports. Over five years, PEPFAR aims to provide two million people with antiretrovirals, prevent seven million new HIV infections and provide care for 10 million AIDS orphans, according to the Post. The World Health Organization has estimated that by the end of June 440,000 HIV-positive people in developing countries were taking antiretrovirals. Some of the 25,000 people receiving the drugs due to PEPFAR funding were covered under the WHO estimate, but "the amount of overlap is uncertain," according to the Post (Washington Post, 9/14). WHO's 3 by 5 Initiative aims to treat three million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs by 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/10).
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Tuesday released a statement in response to the Post article that reported that 25,000 HIV-positive people have received antiretrovirals as a result of PEPFAR funding. AHF spokesperson Cesar Portillo said, "Congress set global AIDS treatment goals in federal law last year, but today's numbers indicate the Bush administration has only met 5% of [the] goal." He added, "Congress set 500,000 as the treatment goal for this month, not 25,000. President Bush himself said that success will be measured in lives saved, and these results can't be labeled anything but failure" (AHF release, 9/14).
An exclusive kaisernetwork.org interview with Tobias from the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July is available online.