Press Statement • December 10, 2014 • for immediate release
Contact: Paul Davis
Health Global Access Project (Health GAP)
Tel. +1 202 817 0129
AIDS Activists Applaud Congressional Increase for U.S. Global AIDS Program
Urge President Obama to finish the job and restore the remainder of PEPFAR cuts made since 2011
[Washington] Global AIDS campaign group Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) applauded the restoration of $300 million for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the omnibus spending bill introduced in the House Tuesday night—funding the White House had proposed to cut from the overall global AIDS budget. The bill fully funds the request advocates made for the Global Fund and restores 50% of the funds cut from PEPFAR since 2011. The group also called on President Obama to include at least an additional $300 million increase in the upcoming FY16 budget proposal—currently being drafted at the White House—and to set a PEPFAR target of treating at least 12 million people by 2016.
“President Obama proposed cuts to global AIDS again this year,” stated Health GAP’s Paul Davis. “But activism and bipartisan support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund carried the day. Now President Obama must fulfill his overdue promise and comply with Congressional requirements to set treatment goals for PEPFAR. The budget the White House is putting together right now must include funds sufficient to commit PEPFAR to getting life-saving treatment to at least 12 million people by 2016.”
Activists note that the increase for FY15 only restores half of the damaging cuts made to PEPFAR since 2011, and that the overall global AIDS budget is on the same level as FY14. The increase for PEPFAR comes from reallocating funds pledged to the multilateral Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that could not be contributed, due to matching requirements in U.S. law as other donors have not yet stepped up to leverage the pledges made by the United States and the UK to the Global Fund.
Support from both House Republicans and Democrats overturned the harmful cuts to global AIDS that President Obama had proposed in his draft budget early this year. Activists marched, held vigils, and lobbied hard for PEPFAR, teaming up with numerous supporters from both houses of congress and leaders from both parties, to overcome opposition and increase PEPFAR funding for the first time in years. Health GAP expressed appreciation for global AIDS champions who took leadership throughout the process, like Representatives Granger (R-Forth Worth), Lowey (D-White Plains) and Lee (D-Oakland), and the dozens of Senators who signed off on several ’Dear Colleague’ letters to appropriators throughout the year, led by Senators Coons (D-DE), Isakson (R-GA), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Coburn (R-OK).
PEPFAR is an unusually popular program in Congress, and was reauthorized for five years in late-2013 by unanimous consent immediately after last year’s government shutdown — at a time when little agreement could be found on other important issues. In the face of strong support from leaders of both parties, the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittees worked to find agreement in a tough fiscal environment to restore cuts to PEPFAR and set the stage for the coming year.
Health GAP also applauds the many grassroots activists who worked tirelessly to urge members of congress to support the increase for PEPFAR. This victory could not have happened without the Student Global AIDS Campaign and many allies who marched, organized phone calling days, held vigils and lobby visits.
On December 2, 2013, during the World AIDS Day commemoration at the White House, President Obama promised to announce new bilateral global HIV treatment targets in accordance with legislative requirements. More than a year later, there are still no targets—in spite of grassroots advocacy, and a bipartisan, bi-cameral letter to the President with over 40 signers from every point on the political spectrum calling for 12 million on antiretroviral treatment by 2016.
“Congress has shown that it can backstop an important program that is delivering on the U.S. goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation,” said Matt Kavanagh from Health GAP. “If he truly wants to end AIDS, the President’s next budget must restore the rest of the cuts he made to PEPFAR, make the maximum contribution to the Global Fund permitted by law, and include the funds necessary for PEPFAR to extend life saving medicine to at least 12 million people living with HIV by 2016.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday December 3 2014
Uganda can end AIDS, but only with evidence, science and human rights: does the President agree?
Civil society responds to the President’s views on the fight against HIV in Uganda and calls for urgent action to mitigate further harm to the national response
(Kampala) On December 1, 2014, World AIDS Day, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni made remarks at the Ft. Portal national commemoration. A coalition of civil society organizations on the front lines of Uganda’s HIV response today reacted to his statements.
Despite a few reassuring comments, the views expressed by the President are cause for grave concern to every Ugandan who wants to see us defeat the AIDS epidemic—in particular, his views that Ugandans should fight AIDS by not having sex (‘put a padlock on your private parts’), and his blaming of evidence based prevention interventions such as condoms and medical male circumcision on Uganda’s troubled AIDS response. He also said becoming HIV positive brings shame to a family.
“These off the cuff comments by our leaders are a wake up call, indicating how out of touch with reality, science, and evidence Uganda’s AIDS response is,” said Alice Kayongo Mutebi of Uganda Cares. “We are also alarmed that his remarks fuel the spread of shame, stigma and discrimination which actually increase the risk of HIV infection among Ugandans, and hold people back from life saving services.”
New data released by UNAIDS show that Uganda lags far behind the region in reduction of AIDS related deaths, and contributes substantially to new infections across sub Saharan Africa. Uganda is one of three countries that accounted for an estimated 48% of new infections in sub Saharan Africa in 2013 alone. Uganda has not reported the major reductions in rates of new infection that our neighbors have. Civil society attributed this lagging performance to lack of emphasis on evidence-based interventions—in particular, the interventions the President was disparaging. Ironically, this evidence typically comes from research in Uganda, such as finding that medical male circumcision helps prevent men from acquiring HIV. Unfortunately, rates of condom use in Uganda have declined sharply between 2005 and 2011; self reported condom use during sex with a non-cohabitating partner declined from 47% to 29% and 53% to 38% among women and men, respectively. Undeniably, the president’s stigmatizing comments further undermine effective prevention.
“These claims by the President are poisoning our national efforts,” said Lilian Mworeko of ICW East Africa. “We are fighting for our lives, but views such as these actually weaken us in battle. Do our leaders want us to win this fight? Why are they content to see us continually falling behind? 570 young women aged 15-24 are infected with HIV every week in Uganda. Many times, these young women are coerced into sex, and local authorities ignore their cries for protection and solidarity. Do the president’s views on abstinence help these women, or bring them further blame and strife?”
Claims that Safe Medical Male Circumcision is ineffective are wrong! Comparing Safe Medical Male Circumcision and Traditional Male Circumcision is almost the same as comparing apples and oranges. The two procedures are not the same and the benefits of Safe Medical Male Circumcision are well proven. Science has revealed that Safe Medical Male Circumcision works. It reduces men’s risk of HIV acquisition by 60% and when enough men are circumcised, it reduces women’s risk too.
Also alarming is the President’s assertion that an HIV positive diagnosis brings shame on a family—encouraging a culture of shame and stigma actually makes people less likely to be open about their status, and more afraid of testing, because they fear the shame that could result. This in turn actually increases avoidable HIV transmission and it beats my understanding when Uganda claims to be fighting stigma and discrimination yet it is actually fueled right from the top—most people with HIV in Uganda are unaware of their status. Incredibly, only 39% of people in Uganda today know how to protect themselves against HIV—and this proportion has remained stagnant for essentially the last decade.
This lagging performance is precisely because lack of emphasis on evidence based interventions—in particular, earlier access to HIV treatment to save lives and reduce new infections; prevention and treatment targeting populations in greatest need, including young women aged 15-24, serodiscordant couples, and truck drivers; as well as criminalized groups like men who have sex with men and sex workers. Its high time Ugandans accepted reality, evidence, and the rights of all people to live in dignity, including people with HIV.
Contact for more information:
Alice Kayongo-Mutebi, Uganda Cares: 0772440108
Kenneth Mwehonge, HEPS Uganda: 0701182809
Asia Russell, Health GAP: 0776574729
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 1 2014
We can’t ‘end AIDS’ if promises from President Obama and U.S. Congress are broken
(Washington D.C., Kampala, Nairobi)
On World AIDS Day, the AIDS advocacy organization Health GAP criticized the Obama administration for failing to deliver on promises to release new HIV treatment and prevention targets, and questioned whether next year’s budget would reverse cuts to the U.S.’s signature President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A year ago, President Obama pledged to set new targets for the PEPFAR program, aligned with global goals. “We’ll hold each other accountable, and we’ll continue to work to turn the tide of this epidemic together,” said President Obama. A year later global goals have been set, but the U.S. contribution toward those goals remains unclear--and the PEPFAR program is running short of funding to carry out its mission.
Experts agree the overall goal the President has laid out in past years—ending the AIDS crisis in highly impacted countries in Africa—is ambitious but achievable. New global treatment goals were announced by Secretary John Kerry and five African heads of state at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this year: ensuring 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of these on treatment, and 90% of those “virally suppressed.” This dramatic ramp up of testing, treatment, and accompanying prevention efforts could slash new HIV infections and halt deaths, saving money in the medium term by getting control of the epidemic. The announcement today that the PEPFAR program supported theaddition of one million new people to HIV treatment programs in the last year shows dramatic scale up is possible.
At a White House World AIDS Day event today, National Security Advisor Susan Rice noted how many communities are still not reached with HIV treatment and services, and pledged to "remain focused on this fight." However, advocates questioned how that focus is going to be possible without the hard targets for the US global AIDS programs that have always guided investment—especially when funding cuts have strained the program to the breaking point. Even as essential U.S. funding to the multilateral Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has grown, the PEPFAR program has been slashed by over $600 million dollars in recent years—and reserves are now running dry. Meanwhile, PEPFAR has now been running for over a year without the guiding goals the President promised.
“How can we take the American commitment to an ‘AIDS-free Generation’ seriously when President Obama has not delivered on his own promises?” asked Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP based in Kampala, Uganda. “In the coming year, U.S.-supported AIDS programs are facing a fiscal cliff—a real threat that new patients will die waiting in line for treatment, and that we will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Setting new targets, making clear what the U.S. will contribute to global goals, and restoring PEPFAR’s funding must all happen urgently if the President’s words are to be more than hollow rhetoric.”
Meanwhile, Congress has flat funded PEPFAR programs for three consecutive years—leaving front line service providers and people with HIV desperate for the increased funding required to end the epidemic. Several U.S. supported programs in Uganda and other countries in the region with the potential for dramatic program acceleration, have already been told that funding to continue to expand new life saving services in 2016 may not be available, which would result in a surge in deaths and new infections.
“It is inexcusable that Congress and the President would falter at this moment—when an investment that is the equivalent to a rounding error in the U.S. budget would help save countless lives, avert millions of new infections, and generate massive cost savings,” said Health GAP’s Maureen Milanga from Nairobi. “In Kenya, we rely on the U.S. keeping its commitments to people with HIV to leverage increased investments from our own government. If President Obama delays setting the program goals he pledged, or Congress fails to restore harmful cuts to PEPFAR, hard-hit countries around the world that are stepping up will have to trim their own plans. This will allow the epidemic to grow, and for costs to spiral out of control. We urge U.S. Congress to restore at least $300 million in cuts to PEPFAR in the 2016 spending bill, and for President Obama to at least restore the remaining additional $300 million in his next budget for 2016.”
Dec 1, World AIDS Day
The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski The Honorable Richard Shelby
Chairwoman Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations Committee on Appropriations
Financial Services and General Government Financial Services and General Government
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Shelby,
The global AIDS investments by the United States are largely responsible for the unprecedented success seen in fighting HIV globally, but our work to control the pandemic is not over. The strong bipartisan support that has sustained the response so far is more critical now than ever to protect global health security and achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
We are writing in support of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and requesting that you continue critical and timely investments in these programs by maintaining funding for global AIDS at the FY 14 funding level. This level of support will maintain and build upon PEPFAR’s current success, and propel its Accelerating Children’s Treatment Initiative to double the number of children on life-saving medication by 300,000 worldwide, while greatly increasing support for prevention of mother to child transmission. Level funding will enable PEPFAR to sustain its leading role in halting this deadly epidemic, while making important and lasting contributions to national health systems that safeguard against other emerging health crises.
Modeling studies show that immediate and rapid scale-up of “combination prevention” programs not only save more lives, but will ultimately save money by averting new HIV infections. The PARTNER study released this year showed conclusively that achieving undetectable viral load in HIV patients reduces the risk of transmission by more than 99%. Newer, more effective anti-HIV medications with fewer side effects and long acting formulations are in the research pipeline, and leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have projected that “we can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 10 years.” To succeed, Congress must maintain current global AIDS funding levels for FY 15.
PEPFAR has been enormously effective, and together with the Global Fund, is starting to turn the tide on the world’s leading infectious disease killer, while also making critical health systems and workforce investments that help foster economic and political stability on a global scale. In this challenging budget environment, we believe that a sustained U.S investment in the fight against HIV is critical, and by maintaining FY 14 level support for U.S. global HIV/AIDS activities for the coming fiscal year, we will save lives and resources in the long-term.
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