WASHINGTON (November 29, 2012)—AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which provides AIDS medical care and treatment services to more than 183,000 individuals in 27 countries worldwide, expressed its disappointment with the Obama administration for a lack of specifics in its latest efforts to try to improve and enhance the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the landmark, widely-respected and lifesaving global AIDS plan initially created by President George W. Bush. The latest Obama tweaks to the plan, titled: ‘PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation,’ were unveiled in a press teleconference hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier today in Washington and which was timed to coincide with this year’s observation of World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1st.
“At first blush after reading through the plan on PEPFAR’s website and listening in on Secretary Clinton’s press teleconference earlier today, it appears that this ‘Blueprint’ for an AIDS-free generation is mostly more talk and spin by the Obama administration, something they have become quite adept at with regard to its handling HIV/AIDS issues both domestically and globally,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “There are some generic pledges in the plan to scale-up testing and treatment, but the Blueprint does not offer concrete plans of how we will actually get there. In terms of targets, the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator said it will also ‘work toward the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive,’ a worthy goal, but again, lacking specifics. Looking forward, there is also a notable absence of any plan on drug pricing, given the high cost of newer and second-line AIDS drugs. The Blueprint simply points out that the vast majority of drugs currently used in the program are older generics, which has saved money. However, there is no discussion of how U.S. trade policy impacts access to these generic medicines going forward. Currently less than half of PEPFAR funding is spent on treatment and care. We believe that 75% should be, and that that shift of priorities would contribute more concretely toward creating an AIDS-free generation.”
PEPFAR was the result of President Bush’s groundbreaking 2003 State of the Union pledge to bring two million HIV positive Africans and others into treatment and prevent seven million new HIV infections via a five-year, $15 billion US-funded program. It currently operates in 15 focus countries and claims to support antiretroviral treatment for 1.4 million people worldwide. PEPFAR has been one of the most successful global humanitarian programs in recent memory, providing medical care to millions of people with HIV/AIDS, it has given hope to the 33 million people with HIV/AIDS in the world.
“Sadly, the lack of specifics doom plans like this,” said Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs for AHF. “By way of previous Obama administration example, two years ago, on the eve of the International AIDS Conference in Vienna—another time when worldwide media interest in HIV/AIDS was high—President Obama rolled out his highly-touted ‘National Strategy on HIV/AIDS,’ an ambitious plan which did nothing to stop waiting lists for the nationwide network of federally supported AIDS Drug Assistance Programs from growing to over 10,000 vulnerable low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS waiting to access lifesaving medications. ADAP waiting lists had never been as high as under Obama after the release of his National AIDS Strategy.”
Separately, in May of this year, AHF lauded the U.S. House of Representatives for budgeting $193 million more to global AIDS programs in the 2013 Foreign Operations & Appropriations Bill than President Obama had proposed. Despite a five percent—or two billion dollar—reduction in overall foreign operations spending from the Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Bill, the Republican-controlled House intended to maintain the current levels of funding, a stark contrast to the Obama Administration’s unprecedented request at that time for a reduction in global AIDS funding of $214 million—the first time a U.S. president had ever cut funding AIDS.
“We believe actions should speak louder than words in the United States’ efforts on AIDS,” added AHF’s Myers.