Editorial, Opinion Piece Respond to Dybul’s Resignation as PEPFAR Administrator
The journal Lancet and the Washington Post recently published an editorial and opinion piece in reaction to the news that the Obama administration last week requested the immediate resignation of Mark Dybul, who served as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and administrator of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Summaries appear below.
Lancet: President Obama should appoint the next PEPFAR administrator based on "experience and ability to do the job," a Lancet editorial says. According to the editorial, qualifications for the position include "bold and visionary leadership and expertise" in the scientific and implementation aspects of global health; "high-level global management experience" working with all sectors of society, including people living with HIV/AIDS; a "commitment to increase coordination with other HIV/AIDS donors," including the private sector and foundations; a "proven track record" of making independent and ambitious decisions; and finally a "commitment to do more to integrate disease-specific responses with health systems strengthening." The editorial also identifies three candidates "thought to be under consideration" for the position: Nils Daulaire, former president and CEO of the Global Health Council; Eric Goosby, former director of HHS's Office of HIV/AIDS Policy; and Jim Yong Kim, former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Department. According to the editorial, Dybul's successor "will have an enormous effect on the lives of millions of people worldwide," and it is therefore "imperative that the move to fill this position is not made in haste." The editorial calls on the Obama administration to choose the next PEPFAR administrator using a "competitive merit-based selection process" involving "input from all stakeholders," including scientists and civil society groups. It concludes, "Not to do so would go against the spirit of transparency and inclusiveness that President Obama has signaled is the hallmark of his administration" (Lancet, 1/26).
- Michael Gerson, Washington Post: Although some of the "stumbles" of the Obama administration have "resulted from incompetent vetting," the requested resignation of Dybul "was made from malice" and "calls into question the depth and duration of President Obama's 'new politics,'" columnist Gerson writes in a Post opinion piece. Dybul was the "main architect" of PEPFAR and "one of its guiding visionaries," Gerson writes, adding that Dybul helped to organize the "most staggeringly successful foreign assistance effort since the Marshall Plan -- eventually helping support lifesaving AIDS therapy for more than two million people." However, a "few radical 'reproductive rights' groups -- the fringe of the fringe -- accused Dybul of advocating 'abstinence only' programs in AIDS prevention," according to Gerson, who adds, "It was always a lie" because Dybul "consistently supported comprehensive prevention efforts that include abstinence, faithfulness and condom use." It is "difficult to imagine what vision of public service could cause any Obama official to celebrate a victory by sabotaging a good man and a good cause," Gerson writes, adding that Dybul has been recognized as a "great humanitarian physician -- a man of faith and conscience -- almost universally respected among legislators, AIDS activists, foreign leaders and health experts." According to Gerson, the global AIDS coordinator position is a "massive emergency operation to provide lifesaving drugs, through complex logistics, to some of the most distant places on Earth. And now that operation may be months without effective leadership -- undermining morale, complicating interagency cooperation, delaying new prevention initiatives and postponing budget decisions" (Gerson, Washington Post, 1/28).