Obama urges global response to combat AIDS

The president's plan, in part, calls for doubling the number of people receiving essential medications.

By Tanya Albert Henry — Posted Dec. 23, 2009

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Instead of functioning as a global emergency response, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will help other countries create their own programs to care for patients, the Obama administration announced on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

The plan's five-year strategy report calls for strengthening other countries' abilities to lead response to the AIDS epidemic and other health issues, and expanding prevention, care and treatment. It also seeks to integrate and coordinate HIV/AIDS programs with broader global health and development programs to maximize the impact on health systems, and invest in innovation and operations research to improve patient care and provide the best outcomes.

"The global AIDS emergency is not over. Countries still struggle with vast unmet needs. There are an estimated 33.4 million people [worldwide] living with HIV and an estimated 2.7 million who have come in with new infections each year, with about 2 million deaths," Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said at a Kaiser Family Foundation town hall-style session Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C.

The global need requires a global response with increased cooperation, he said. "If we are to sustain the gains we've made against this epidemic, PEPFAR [the president's plan] must work in closer collaboration with country governments to support them in taking the lead in planning a response to their epidemics and orchestrating outside resources."

President George W. Bush proposed and Congress authorized PEPFAR in 2003 as a five-year, $15 billion imitative to combat global HIV/AIDS. The program supported treatment to more than 2 million people with HIV/AIDS and care to more than 10 million. In 2008, Congress reauthorized the program for another five years, pledging $48 billion for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria efforts.

Among the other items that Obama's five-year plan calls for:

  • Supporting prevention of more than 12 million new HIV infections.
  • Doubling the number of at-risk babies born HIV-free. About 240,000 babies of HIV-positive mothers were born HIV-negative during PEPFAR's first five years.
  • Supplying youth with prevention programs that communicate how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and inform them how to protect themselves.
  • Supporting more than 4 million people on treatment regimens, more than doubling the number of people the program supported during its first five years.
  • Linking HIV services to broader delivery mechanisms. For example, it aims to strengthen families' and communities' abilities to provide supportive services such as food, nutrition, education and vocational training.
  • Expanding HIV/TB integration by routinely screening patients for TB and testing TB patients for HIV, referring them for follow-up and appropriate treatment.

Obama's plan is available online (link).

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