President Bush Announces Plans To Travel to Africa Next Year To Review Progress of PEPFAR Programs
President Bush on Friday in recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 announced that he plans to travel to Africa next year to review the progress of programs funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Baltimore Sun reports (Nitkin/Gencer, Baltimore Sun, 12/1). President Bush and first lady Laura Bush on Friday met with faith-based HIV/AIDS advocacy groups in Mount Airy, Md., to discuss PEPFAR, White House spokesperson Alex Conant said. The administration chose Calvary United Methodist Church to host the event because of its support for Children of Zion Village, a group home and school in Namibia for AIDS orphans, according to Conant. The orphanage is located in northeastern Namibia and was opened in 2003 by missionaries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/30).
"Americans expect results," the president said after meeting with the groups, adding, "I look forward to seeing the results of America's generosity." He said that U.S. assistance over the past five years has "pioneered a new model for public health," adding that PEPFAR includes "specific, measurable targets for progress" that demand "honesty and accountability for all those involved" and "puts local partners in the lead" (Ward, Washington Times, 12/1).
Bush also called on Congress to increase funding for PEPFAR to $30 billion during the next reauthorization process, the Los Angeles Times reports (Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, 12/1). PEPFAR's original mandate is scheduled to expire in September 2008. Bush in May called on Congress to double current funding levels to $30 billion over five years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/15). According to Bush, the number of people with access to antiretroviral drugs has increased from 50,000 to 1.4 million under PEPFAR. Ambassador Mark Dybul, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator who administers PEPFAR, said that the program is providing care to 6.7 million people (Washington Times, 12/1). In addition, PEPFAR is helping provide care to 2.7 million orphans and other children, according to Dybul.
The "time has come for Congress to act again," Bush said. He added that "tens of millions have received ... prevention messages based on the proven principles of ABC" -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- as a result of the program (Los Angeles Times, 12/1). "Some call this a remarkable success," Bush said, adding, "I call it a good start." He added, "It lifts our spirits and souls to help neighbors in need, whether it's a neighbor across the street or a neighbor in the global community" (Abramowitz, Washington Post, 12/1). Some HIV/AIDS advocates have criticized Bush for "focusing too heavily" on abstinence, the Los Angeles Times reports. About 40 people were arrested on Friday for protesting outside the White House against PEPFAR rules that require at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through the program to be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Los Angeles Times, 12/1).
Lawmakers Pledge To Reauthorize PEPFAR
House and Senate leaders on Friday pledged to reauthorize PEPFAR at levels higher than Bush's request and committed to considering reauthorization early next year, CQ HealthBeat reports. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joseph Biden (D-Del.) on Friday called on Bush and Congress to pledge $50 billion over the next five years for global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs. He said that the U.S. "cannot keep up with the current pace of the epidemic through treatment programs alone," adding that prevention programs are "critical to beating" HIV/AIDS. Biden also called for the elimination of "barriers" that set specific percentages for the amount that can be spent on HIV/AIDS care, treatment and prevention.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said the committee will consider PEPFAR reauthorization as its "first major order of business in 2008." Lantos also said in a statement Friday that he intends to increase funding for HIV/AIDS programs "dramatically over current levels" (Gensheimer, CQ HealthBeat, 11/30).
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Friday criticized Bush for not seeking a $50 billion appropriation for PEPFAR, saying that "$30 billion does not meet the need and simply maintains the status quo" (Los Angeles Times, 12/1). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that reauthorizing PEPFAR "is an opportunity to show that America stands with developing nations as they fight this deadly disease" (Washington Times, 12/1). Asked on Friday whether the U.S. is working hard enough to control HIV/AIDS domestically, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the administration is "putting resources and money towards" HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Perino added that there is a "need here in America, but there is also a need in other countries, including Africa, Latin America and Asia" (Washington Post, 12/1).
A fact sheet about PEPFAR is available online.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela on Saturday at the fifth "46664" HIV/AIDS awareness concert in Johannesburg, South Africa, said, "If we are to stop the AIDS epidemic from expanding, we need to break the cycle of new HIV infections." Mandela hosted the concert -- which drew about 15,000 people -- to coincide with World AIDS Day. "All of us working together with government, communities and civil society can make the difference that is needed," he said, adding, "Together, we have the power to change the course of destiny" (Jacobson, AP/Yahoo! News, 12/1). United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday said, "We have made tangible and remarkable progress on all these fronts. But we must do more" (AFP/Google.com, 12/1).
Several groups released studies and launched initiatives to mark World AIDS Day. Summaries appear below.
- The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: The organization on Friday announced that more than 1.4 million HIV-positive people worldwide have received access to antiretroviral drugs through Global Fund-supported programs -- almost twice the number reported last year. The organization also announced that more than 3.3 million people with TB received drug access through Global Fund-supported programs. TB is the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people worldwide. The Global Fund earlier last week announced that the number of insecticide-treated nets distributed by programs supported by the organization has increased to 46 million so far this year -- a 155% increase from the 18 million families that received ITNs in 2006 (Global Fund release, 11/30).
Lancet: The journal on Saturday released a special issue in recognition of World AIDS Day. The issue includes editorials, reports, research and other resources (Lancet, 12/1).
PLoS Medicine: The journal on Saturday released a special collection of articles, commentaries and editorials. The articles include research on men who have sex with men in developing countries; pregnant women and when they disclose their HIV status around childbirth; a mutation in HIV that can cause drug resistance; how confirmatory HIV tests can help estimate recent cases; how CMV retinitis can cause blindness among young HIV-positive people in developing countries; and developments and future directions for antibody-based HIV vaccines (PLoS Medicine release, 11/26).
Several broadcast programs reported on issues related to World AIDS Day. Summaries appear below.
- CNN's "World Report": The program on Sunday included three segments examining issues related to HIV/AIDS, including reports on AIDS orphans, stigma toward HIV/AIDS in China and medical research ("World Report," CNN, 12/2). Video of the segment is available online.
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": The program on Saturday included a discussion with Ronald Johnson of the AIDS Action Council about U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 12/1). Video of the segment is available online.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The program on Friday profiled Austin Gutwein, a 13-year-old Arizona resident who founded Hoops of Hope to raise money for AIDS orphans in Zambia (Larson, "Nightly News," NBC, 11/30). Video of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "News & Notes": The program on Friday included a discussion with Shannon Hader, director of Washington, D.C.'s HIV/AIDS Administration, about the number of HIV/AIDS infections in the district (Chideya , "News & Notes," NPR, 11/30). Audio of the segment is available online. Friday's program also included a discussion with a woman who has AIDS and her daughter about living with the disease (Chideya , "News & Notes," NPR, 11/30). Audio of the segment is available online. In addition, the program included a discussion with psychologist Dorothy Holmes about coping with issues related to family members who have HIV/AIDS (Chideya , "News & Notes," NPR, 11/30). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The program on Friday included the third in a three-part series on the impact of PEPFAR in Africa. The segment includes comments from Dybul; Tracy Carson, coordinator of the U.S. Global AIDS program in Tanzania; Dennett Fimbo of the Tanzania National AIDS Control Program; Peter Masika, head of the Tanzania Youth Alliance; Chip Health, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and Tanzania residents (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 11/30). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.