Wednesday, January 9, 2008

PEPFAR - President Bush's Surprising Legacy

"I have set before you life and death, ... therefore, choose life."
Deuteronomy 30:19

Like much of the country, I am not a huge fan of our current President. However, I have to say that I was ignorant of the extent of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR for short. This article from the NY Times provides a good summary of the plan, including a brief history. Some of the highlights of the article include:
* Roughly 1.4 million AIDS patients have received lifesaving medicine paid for with American dollars, up from 50,000 before the initiative.
* Announced in 2003, the plan called for $15 billion for AIDS prevention, treatment and care, concentrating on 15 hard-hit nations in Africa and the Caribbean. An enthusiastic Congress has already approved $19 billion.
* President Bush is pressing for a new five-year commitment of $30 billion.
* Despite the effort, there are still 33 million people living with H.I.V., and the United Nations estimates that there were 1.7 million new infections in 2007 in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Critics, including John Kerry, are particularly incensed by the requirement that one-third of the prevention funds be spent teaching abstinence, despite a lack of scientific consensus that such programs reduce the spread of H.I.V.
* In Haiti, about 13,000 patients are now receiving anti-retroviral drugs. That is only half the estimated 26,000 who need them, but far more than the 100 being treated five years ago.
* In Uganda, 110,000 people are under treatment, and 2 million have H.I.V. tests each year, up from 10,000 treated and 400,000 tested before. The money comes mostly from Pepfar, but also from a United Nations fund to which the United States contributes.
As this is a cause very near and dear to my heart, it is so exciting to be a nation that is pursuing some real progress! Citing as being the "most lasting bipartisan accomplishment of the Bush presidency," I certainly hope that PEPFAR does in fact survive, and thrive, after the 2008 elections and beyond...