PEPFAR: Celebrating its past and ensuring its future

February 8, 2023

As the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) marks its 20th year as one of America’s most effective global programs in history, advanced with bipartisan support, the US Congress will be considering its reauthorization this year.

Yesterday, US President Joe Biden singled out the success of PEPFAR in his State of the Union address. Countless others including Bill Gates, former PEPFAR head Debbi Birx, former AVACer Emily Bass and Friends of the Global Fight’s Mark Lagon, have written about its impact in recent days – and the opportunities and challenges for its future. PEPFAR has to date saved 25 million lives by delivering life-saving antiretrovirals; it is credited with keeping 5.5 million babies HIV free and contributing to a 68 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths globally since their peak in 2004, just to highlight a few statistics that tell the story: PEPFAR’s impact has been monumental. Now what?

AVAC appreciates the Biden Administration’s recent promise to continue support for PEPFAR, as other presidential administrations have since its inception. However, it’s imperative that such promises are fulfilled through Congress’s unwavering, fully-funded support for the reauthorization of PEPFAR for the next five years – see these important principles to guide this process from the Global AIDS Policy Partnership (GAPP).

As the world begins to deliver on the commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat AND grapple with how best to build a platform for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR), a strong PEPFAR will be critical. AVAC Senior Program Manager for Policy John Meade, Jr. spelled out some crucial connections in his recent blog, Global Fund and PEPFAR’s Essential Collaboration.

PEPFAR’s decades of experience using data and building systems, programs, and infrastructure to confront HIV, and instilling community trust, are unmatched as a global model for pandemic preparedness. Staying on track in the fight against HIV, through PEPFAR and other investments, secures a foundation for facing down future health threats, as a number of our colleagues just wrote in PLOS Global Public Health: Leveraging the HIV response to strengthen pandemic preparedness. Fulfilling this role depends on providing new money, policy-setting authority, and clearly defined leadership to PEPFAR. Without these measures, instead of building on and extending PEPFAR’s strength, decision-makers risk serious damage to what has been singular success in global health.

As PEPFAR marks its groundbreaking accomplishments in this anniversary year, we will be applauding its successes, tracking the process toward reauthorization, and keeping advocates connected to opportunities to add their voices to the process.