Though U.S. Commitment to an “AIDS-Free Generation” Was Repeated Throughout the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. Over This Past Week, There Is Little Promise of Action Going Forward
On the Heels of News that Treating All Who Are HIV-Positive is Cost-Effective, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the Largest Global AIDS Organization, Calls For New PEPFAR and ADAP Funding; “A Prudent Public Health Strategy That Will Save Lives, As Well as Money as New HIV Infections Are Averted,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein
WASHINGTON D.C. (July 27, 2012) With the week-long XIX International AIDS Conference wrapping up in Washington D.C. today AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urged world leaders, including the Obama Administration, to follow up on the optimism coming out of the conference with action.
A key piece of news to come out of the conference was a study done by Dr. Rochelle Walensky of Harvard University and her colleagues that demonstrated that universal treatment of all those who are HIV-positive ranks as very cost-effective. After conducting the analysis, representatives from The HIV Prevention Trials Network were surprised to find that universal treatment was cost saving over the first five years. “It’s really hard to find health interventions that save money,” Walensky says. “So we were really excited.”
“The study that showed the cost-effectiveness of universal treatment is some of the most important news to come out of this year’s conference. However, the commitment by world leaders—the U.S. included—is still in question,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides free HIV/AIDS medical care to over 176,000 people in the U.S. and 25 other countries abroad. “The D.C. conference was a chance for the Obama administration to reverse course and truly demonstrate the willingness of the U.S. to ‘keep the promise’ on HIV/AIDS. Though there was some funding offered by the administration, it did not come close to what the President has already proposed cutting from the global AIDS budget. And, the fact that the National AIDS Strategy blueprint is not expected until December 1st—after the election, which may even make it irrelevant—does not show a great urgency in dealing with the domestic epidemic either.”
Added Weinstein: “In light of new evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of universal treatment, AHF calls for new funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as well as for the U.S. AIDS Drug Assistance Program—a prudent, fiscally-responsibility public health strategy that will save lives, as well as money as new HIV infections are averted.”
The conference, which takes place every two years, is a gathering of over 20,000 leading AIDS scientists, researchers, medical providers, patients and advocates from around the world. The conference, which is being held in the United States for the first time in more than 20 years, will feature presentations of important new scientific research and opportunities for dialogue on the major challenges facing the global response to AIDS.
There are currently waiting lists of nearly 2,000 patients waiting for access to the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), the network of programs that provide AIDS drugs to low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the administration is seeking to cut its funding in the global AIDS fight—the first time an American president has ever taken such a step.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration, which—in a shocking repudiation of nearly thirty years of progress against the global AIDS pandemic—unveiled a global AIDS budget that took the unprecedented step of reducing AIDS funding by approximately $214 million in fiscal year 2013. Never before has a president sought to actually reduce America’s commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic globally.
In Fiscal Year 2012, the federal funding for global AIDS is $6.63 billion. President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposes spending $6.42 billion. In human terms, this difference represents 640,000 people with HIV/AIDS that could receive lifesaving AIDS treatment for one year.
The proposed budget came shortly after, and is directly at odds with, the President’s December 2011 announced goals of putting 2 million more people (50% more than the current number of approximately 4 million) on treatment by the end of 2013, and of creating an “AIDS free generation.”
“Actions speak louder than words,” added AHF’s Weinstein. “Defunding PEPFAR and ignoring ADAP waiting lists merely confirm what people with HIV/AIDS and their advocates have long suspected—that the President is not seriously committed to fighting AIDS. And, despite the affirmations to come out of the conference—that we have the tools to end AIDS—we are still left with the question: Do we have the will?”
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AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 176,000 individuals in 26 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.