Los Angeles Times Examines Effect of PEPFAR Drug Programs in Africa
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined the effects of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief's antiretroviral drug distribution in Africa (Sanders, Los Angeles Times, 2/15). PEPFAR initially was authorized to direct $15 billion over five years for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis primarily to 15 focus countries. President Bush in May 2007 called on Congress to increase this initial PEPFAR funding level to $30 billion for five years after the program's original mandate expires in September 2008 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/29).
According to the Times, $18 billion in PEPFAR funds have been used on HIV treatment and prevention in developing countries and has increased the number of people receiving antiretroviral drugs in Africa from 50,000 to 1.4 million. About 57,000 lives have been saved in Kenya through the program. African governments, which oversee distribution of PEPFAR funds and supplies, say the program has been "instrumental" in the fight against HIV/AIDS on the continent, the Times reports. Alloy Orago, director of the National AIDS Control Council in Kenya, said that without PEPFAR, he does not know "what would have happened" with the HIV/AIDS situation, adding that the funding has allowed the Kenyan government to fund other priorities.
Some people have criticized a PEPFAR requirement that a portion of the program's HIV/AIDS prevention funds be spent on abstinence education. However, the drug distribution portion of PEPFAR has been "widely supported" and has "drawn praise" for Bush from "unlikely backers," including the musician Bono, the Times reports. Health experts also said that the success of PEPFAR has "defied critics," who before the program's launch said that Africans would not be able to adhere to treatment regimens or that developing nations were unable to handle the receipt of large amounts of foreign aid, according to the Times.
PEPFAR has helped reduce HIV-associated stigma and discrimination, which has led to an increase in support groups and testing centers, the Times reports. According to Warren Buckingham, head of PEPFAR in Kenya, the program "has proven that increased resources can be used effectively and rapidly" to address HIV/AIDS in Africa. J. Stephen Morrison, co-director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Africa program, said PEPFAR "will rank in the top tier of [Bush's] legacy issues" (Los Angeles Times, 2/15).