Global AIDS Patients, Doctors Lobby Congress on PEPFAR Reauthorization

In Advocacy, Global, News by AHF


AIDS patients and doctors from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti and Vietnam will visit 50 congressional offices this week to tell their personal stories and press legislators to continue to honor the US’ commitment to PEPFAR, the respected global AIDS care program

AHF Chief of Global Advocacy Terri Ford, Global Policy Manager Denys Nazarov, South African Patient Advocate Jenny Boyce, and AHF Nigeria Country Program Manager Dr. Salami Olawale stand beside a piece of a current AHF campaign in Washington, D.C. which admonishes the Obama Administration's precedent-setting and disappointing retreat on the global fight against AIDS

Five AIDS treatment clients, three doctors and several senior staff members from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and its treatment clinics around the world, including individuals from South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti and Vietnam, traveled to the United States for a series of over 50 meetings this week (May 20-24) on Capitol Hill with Senate and Congressional leaders to lobby Congress to honor the US’ landmark commitment to PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), the successful US global AIDS program as it comes up for reauthorization in the coming months.

The group, all of whom are treatment clients, global team members, or medical health care providers of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which provides AIDS medical care to more than 200,000 individuals in 28 countries worldwide, will lobby Congress to ensure that funding for PEPFAR’s lifesaving efforts continue at appropriate levels and to urge legislators to demand accountability so that PEPFAR countries operate their AIDS treatment programs in the most cost effective ways by reducing the amount permitted to be spent on overhead and bureaucracy.

In mid-February, as the US observed the tenth anniversary of PEPFAR, which President George W. Bush first proposed in his 2003 State of the Union address, the effects of devastating—and deadly—cuts to PEPFAR were beginning to be felt around the world.

“In Fiscal-Year 2012, federal funding for global AIDS was $6.63 billion. President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposed spending $6.42 billion,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation in a statement. “In human terms, that difference represents 640,000 people with HIV/AIDS that could receive lifesaving AIDS treatment for one year.”

“Retreat on HIV & AIDS funding will mean that a number of innocent children will be orphans,” said Nozipho, a 31-year-old South African woman who found out she was positive in 2004 when she became pregnant with her child. She contemplated suicide until she learned that ARVs, if taken properly, have the ability to suppress the virus and allow her to live. Nizipho named her child ‘Naledi’ meaning, ‘a star’ and is determined to stay alive to see her grow up. She is a community outreach worker at AHF and says, “In conversations in Washington this week and through my ongoing advocacy and outreach work at home in South Africa, I am working tirelessly to ensure that retreat on global AIDS does not happen.”

Last World AIDS Day, the President spoke in front of a sign that
said, ‘End AIDS’. Well, we challenge him to do that. It can be done,
we now know that. Does he have what it takes?”

Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy for AHF

“In retrospect, we question President Obama’s promise to scale up treatment to 6 million people by 2013,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy for AHF. “Last World AIDS Day, the President spoke in front of a sign that said, ‘End AIDS’. Well, we challenge him to do that. It can be done, we now know that. Does he have what it takes? It certainly doesn’t seem so. His actions show that the U.S. is not committed to staying the course in the fight against AIDS. This is the time to double down and conquer AIDS across the globe. We are seeking a measurable scale up of testing and treatment, not a retreat on AIDS!”

According to a CQ Healthbeat article on the overseas AIDS patients’ lobbing visits (5/20/13, Rebecca Adams), “The group is also asking appropriators to include report language that would urge the Department of State ‘to seek to devote 75 percent of PEPFAR dollars to antiretroviral drug and medical treatment and HIV testing.’ The organization also wants a provision saying, ‘The committee urges the Department to implement a yearly per-patient contribution for AIDS treatment of $275.00,’ which is approximately the amount of money that it takes for the organization to provide treatment through its clinics.

Through the Forest: An Unexpected Path to Global Leadership
CQ HealthBeat: Advocacy Group Bringing Overseas Patients to Lobby for PEPFAR Renewal