HIV/AIDS Advocates Calling for Increased Funding for PEPFAR, Investment in New Initiatives
Some HIV/AIDS advocates are calling on Congress to allocate more money than President Bush has asked for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as lawmakers prepare to vote next week on reauthorizing the program, Inter Press Service reports. Bush has called on Congress to authorize a $30 billion, five-year extension of PEPFAR. Some advocates are calling for a $59 billion, five-year extension of the plan to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and parallel programs aimed at reducing disease vulnerability, Inter Press Service reports. They also have said that they want PEPFAR officials to expand funding for new initiatives, such as programs to strengthen local health care systems, microbicide research, and education and economic empowerment initiatives aimed at women.
Pat Daoust, director of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS Campaign, said, "Getting drugs on the ground is not the only answer. Making treatments available is not the only answer." Daoust added, "We need health care workers to deliver the treatments." PHR data show that in sub-Saharan Africa, 3% of the world's health care workers serve 24% of the world's population living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated one million additional health workers are needed in the region to address the needs of the population. Advocates also are calling for "wrap-around programs" that combine HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment with routine health and social services, according to Inter Press Service.
Providing no-cost primary education would be another successful HIV/AIDS intervention, some advocates have said. Pauline Muchina -- who serves in the United Nations' Global Coalition on Women and AIDS -- said that HIV/AIDS cases decreased in Kenya when the government began providing no-cost education to all children. Many advocates have said that PEPFAR's second phase should incorporate education and economic empowerment initiatives to address the disproportionate HIV/AIDS burden among women in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, advocates have said that the second phase of PEPFAR should shift its emphasis from abstinence-only programs to other prevention methods for women, such as microbicides. Current prevention strategies use the ABC model -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- but gender inequality in many sub-Saharan African countries make it difficult for women to negotiate condom use, according to Inter Press Service. "These three are all important, but we need to look beyond" ABC, Muchina said, adding, "We need to look to prevention options that are in women's hands."
Among youth in the region, 75% of those living with HIV/AIDS are young women and girls, Muchina said. Women account for about 50% of HIV cases worldwide but represent 61% of HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa, Inter Press Service reports. "Until we address the overriding issues and make a substantial investment in those issues, we are never going to reach the number of people that we said we would," Daoust said (Pollock, Inter Press Service, 1/29).