PEPFAR ‘On Track’ To Meet Goals When Authorization Expires, Dybul Says
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is "dead on track" to meet its goal of providing antiretroviral drugs to two million people when it's five-year authorization expires in 2008, Ambassador Mark Dybul, who serves as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and administers PEPFAR, said Thursday in an interview during a visit to San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the Chronicle, Dybul is visiting San Francisco in part to gain congressional support for the PEPFAR reauthorization bill, which will extend the program for five more years and must be approved by October 2008. The reauthorization bill likely will be debated this spring, the Chronicle reports.
As of September 2006, about 882,000 people had received access to antiretrovirals through PEPFAR, the Chronicle reports. According to Dybul, the number has been increasing by an average of 50,000 people monthly. He added, "A few years ago, there were only 50,000 on treatment in all of Africa." In addition, generic medications manufactured abroad now account for almost one-third of drugs distributed through PEPFAR. According to Dybul, a PEPFAR-approved combination therapy containing three antiretrovirals now is available for $90 annually.
According to the Chronicle, PEPFAR funding allocations and the Bush administration's requirement that prevention programs stress abstinence could become "contentious" issues in the debate to reauthorize the program (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/27). By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/2). Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would remove the abstinence program funding requirement, according to the Chronicle. In addition, the amount allocated to the program also will be a likely source of debate. Democrats are proposing to allocate $30 billion over five years to the program, which is twice the funding authorized by the legislation that created PEPFAR, the Chronicle reports. Dybul declined to speculate the amount the Bush administration will propose be allocated to the program (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/27).
In related news, Alex Coutinho, executive director of TASO Uganda, said that funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Uganda has increased tenfold since PEPFAR's implementation, VOA News reports. According to Coutinho -- who is touring Washington, D.C., and California with Dybul -- PEPFAR programs have helped reduce HIV prevalence in Uganda, which is a PEPFAR focus country, from 18% to the current 6.5% (De Capua, VOA News, 4/26).