The Future of HIV/AIDS in International Development Programs
February 17, 2011
In the face of uncertain funding for critical HIV/AIDS programs, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, presented a road map for the future
of global health and international development programs.
Rajiv Shah speaking at NIH. (Photo: USAID)
Shah delivered the David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture
earlier this week at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to a room full of scientists, researchers, and innovators. He highlighted the important role science plays in global health development, and outlined an ambitious agenda for the next five years to expand global health breakthroughs and improve health outcomes worldwide.
USAID has tackled many critical issues throughout its fifty years of existence
. The organization was at the forefront of confronting the global AIDS pandemic, launching its first HIV/AIDS programs in the developing world in 1986.
Most recently, USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have been responsible for providing HIV services to families across the globe, saving millions of lives.
With USAID’s support, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was able to dramatically expand its Call to Action Project (CTA)
to reach more women with medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.
Preventing new infections in infants is not only the moral thing to do – it’s a smart and cost-effective way to stop the spread of the AIDS pandemic to a new generation.
A pregnant woman receiving HIV treatment to protect her baby also improves her own health, and her ability to raise a healthy child. A healthy, HIV-negative child represents a lifetime of cost savings from future treatment – and the capacity to lead a full and productive life.
From 2002 until 2010, Call to Action supported more than 2,600 health sites in 14 countries, and reached nearly 4 million pregnant women with HIV testing and PMTCT services—an unprecedented achievement.
The success of this and other programs has produced dramatic results:
• In 2005, just ten percent of HIV-positive pregnant women worldwide were receiving the medicines they needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Today, that number is more than fifty percent.
• U.S. support for PMTCT programs has resulted in hundreds of thousands of children growing up HIV-free across the globe.
These successes mark significant progress, but there is still much more left to be done.
In his lecture, Shah highlighted the need to strengthen PMTCT programs even further.
“The power of [PMTCT] is clear: in the developed world, ARV treatment and safe infant feeding has virtually eliminated pediatric AIDS. There’s no reason we can’t achieve this same result in the developing world by focusing heavily on community outreach.”
(Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
Shah is absolutely correct. The elimination of pediatric HIV and AIDS is within reach. But greater political commitment and continued resources are needed to make it a reality.
Over the past few years, U.S. commitment to global HIV and AIDS programs has saved the lives of millions of men, women, and children. However, that support is now in jeopardy.
U.S. budget problems are real. But they’re not caused by effective global health programs that are saving lives – and our economic difficulties won’t be solved by cutting these programs.
Foreign assistance programs represent about one percent of the total federal budget, significantly less than most Americans assume.
And we cannot lose sight of the lifesaving impact of HIV/AIDS services, funded through the generosity of the American people.
That generosity is primarily delivered through programs administered by USAID and its partners around the world.
We must ensure that USAID has the resources to continue its trailblazing global health work. The future of millions of people around the world depends on it.
Charles Lyons is President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.