President's Message: March 2011
March 1, 2011
Top of mind for me in recent weeks—and a topic that’s been reflected in headlines around the world—is the threat of decreased U.S. Government funding for critical HIV/AIDS work. Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would drastically cut lifesaving global health funding, including $363 million for global HIV and AIDS programs and $450 million for the Global Fund. I am deeply concerned about this legislation, which is now in the hands of the Senate.
(Photo: Georgina Goodwin)
U.S. budget problems are real—but they’re not caused by global health programs or foreign assistance, and our economic difficulties won’t be solved by cutting these lifesaving programs. The successes of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR) speak for themselves. We are currently reaching 53% of women around the world who need services to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies, up from 15% five years ago. That’s a staggering increase. Cutting funding would have equally detrimental effects: According to PEPFAR estimates, 100,000 fewer pregnant women would receive services to protect their babies from the virus, likely resulting in 20,000 infants needlessly infected with HIV—20,000 infections that could have been prevented. PEPFAR funding also has resulted in better health, more stable lives, and improved economic prospects for families, promoting stability in the communities and countries we serve.
At the Foundation, we take great pride in the effectiveness of our program implementation, and its sustainability. And we’ll continue to do our good work around the world. It would, of course, be best to have as much funding as possible in order to continue to enhance and expand our programs. We are working actively to galvanize support around sustained funding for critical prevention, care, and treatment efforts. We’re also working in concert with partners to let Congress know that contemplating these cuts is simply unacceptable. Please join us in those efforts.
(Photo: Georgina Goodwin)
Taking a stand on behalf of children and families worldwide is nothing new for the Foundation. The organization began when Elizabeth Glaser, Susie Zeegen, and Susan DeLaurentis realized that AIDS research for children was an afterthought. Thanks, in part, to their efforts, the global health community has made progress in finding better pediatric treatments, more effective ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and even inching, bit by bit, closer to a vaccine to prevent HIV.
Research remains incredibly important to the Foundation. That’s why I’m so pleased that a new member of the Foundation family has just joined us: 2011 International Leadership Award (ILA) winner recipient Dr. Landon Myer, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa
. The ILA is a three-year grant focused on international work in PMTCT and HIV care and treatment. Dr. Myer’s research will help drive innovative new strategies to deliver antiretroviral medicines to HIV-infected women while they are pregnant. Ultimately, this will more effectively reduce the risk of transmission of HIV from mother to child, while promoting the health of both. Congratulations to Dr. Myer, who will join the many esteemed researchers and clinicians funded by the Foundation’s grants over the past two decades. And that carries on the legacy begun by Elizabeth, Susie, and Susan.
Speaking of Susie and Susan, I had the opportunity to speak with the Foundation’s co-founders just last weekend at the UCLA Dance Marathon, close to the Foundation’s birthplace in Santa Monica, California. This event raised more than $410,000 to benefit the Foundation and three other organizations, with an astounding ten-year event total of $2.5 million. These college students were on their feet dancing for 26 hours straight—without a single break—in support of pediatric AIDS.
That type of dedication and commitment inspires us as we continue our worldwide efforts to eliminate pediatric AIDS. Please join us.