State Department Releases PEPFAR Progress Report; Rep. Lee Calls U.S. Efforts ‘Inadequate’
The State Department on Wednesday released its second annual report to Congress on the progress of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Schweid, AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/9). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria primarily to 15 focus countries and provides funding to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7). According to the report, the U.S. in 2005 provided antiretroviral drugs to 471,000 people in developing countries, increasing the number of people who have access to the treatment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. aims to increase the number to 860,000 people in fiscal year 2006 and to 1.3 million in FY 2007, provided that Congress approves President Bush's proposed $4 billion budget for international HIV/AIDS programs. By comparison, 50,000 HIV-positive people in Africa had access to antiretrovirals three years ago, according to official statistics. U.S. grants in 2005 also paid for palliative care for nearly three million HIV-positive people in 15 countries, an increase from 1.7 million in FY 2004, according to the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/8).
"People are alive today because the [U.S.] has turned its words into action," the report said. However, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who co-wrote the legislation that launched PEPFAR, in a statement said that "while this report shows some advances, the rate of progress is inadequate to meet either the needs for treatment and prevention or the commitment we set out," adding, "The sense of urgency is missing." Lee also said that "HIV-prevention policies should not be based in ideology" and that "the U.S. government shouldn't be deciding who uses condoms and who doesn't." Mark Dybul, deputy U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, said at a news conference that about 20% of the U.S. funding for HIV/AIDS is channeled through faith-based organizations, and many of these groups promote only abstinence, and not contraception, according to the AP/Sacramento Bee. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice upon the release of the report said, "Prevention is the first line of defense" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/9).
A webcast of the PEPFAR press conference is available online at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/hcast_index.cfm?display=detail&hc=1656.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday reported on funding for HIV/AIDS programs under the Bush administration. The segment includes comments from Rice, Lee and Dybul (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/9). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.