IRIN/Plus News Examines PEPFAR Under Obama Administration
The extent to which President Obama's campaign promises regarding HIV/AIDS will turn into policy "remains to be seen, but expectations are high," and the question is "not whether" the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will "continue" under Obama, but "whether it will continue in the same form," IRIN/Plus News reports. Obama's plan to combat global HIV and AIDS released during the campaign "pledged that 'best practice, not ideology' would drive U.S. funding for HIV/AIDS programs," according to IRIN/Plus News.
According to IRIN/Plus News, it is PEPFAR's HIV prevention efforts that have "most irked" many advocates, like policies that favor abstinence, require organizations receiving funding to oppose commercial sex work and a ban on money for needle exchange programs. Some advocates said that they were disappointed with Obama's decision to not immediately replace Ambassador Mark Dybul as the Global AIDS Coordinator, IRIN/Plus News reports, because of Dybul's association with an "ideologically driven approach to HIV prevention."
Serra Sippel, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equality, said that reversing some current PEPFAR policies would require a lengthy legislative process and action from Obama but that she believes "we might be able to accomplish more by trying to change the way the programs are implemented." Michael Bennish -- executive director of PEPFAR-recipient Mpilonhle in South Africa and a senior associate with Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health -- said that he hopes PEPFAR under Obama "will look at the science of things and base decisions on facts and not beliefs." In addition, Sippel said advocates "must keep the pressure on" Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to "uphold their promise to increase (HIV/AIDS) funding" despite the current economic crisis.
IRIN/Plus News reports that PEPFAR's achievements in areas such as providing treatment and care are "on fairly solid ground" and that there is "no question that it has saved lives." Francois Venter, president of the South African HIV Clinicians Society, said that PEPFAR "patched up gaps in provision to groups like illegal immigrants and refugees," adding that he "think[s] there's fairly universal acknowledgement it's been a successful program" (IRIN/Plus News, 1/21).