Policy & Politics
HIV/AIDS Treatment Programs Will Not Keep Pace Unless Number of New Cases Decreases, Experts Say at PEPFAR Reauthorization Hearing
December 12, 2007
HIV/AIDS treatment programs in Africa will not be able to keep pace unless the number of new cases significantly decreases, experts said Tuesday at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Boston Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 12/12). PEPFAR's original mandate is scheduled to expire in September 2008. President Bush in May called on Congress to double current funding levels to $30 billion over five years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/3).
Helen Smits, co-chair of a recent Institute of Medicine PEPFAR report, said that spending requirements should be dropped so that PEPFAR focus countries can direct programs on their needs. "If a country discovers it has a big problem with needle-sharing (spreading HIV), they could devote all their money in one year to stamp it out," she said. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chair of the committee, also said he supports a comprehensive approach that would allow focus countries flexibility in spending money for prevention programs (Boston Globe, 12/12). Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has introduced a measure (S 1966) that would remove PEPFAR's abstinence and fidelity requirement and instead allocate 50% of prevention funding for comprehensive prevention programs, including abstinence and condom use, CQ HealthBeat reports. The measure also would pledge $30 billion through fiscal year 2013 for PEPFAR (CQ HealthBeat, 12/11).
Mark Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who administers PEPFAR, said he favors Lugar's proposal because evidence supports abstinence and monogamy as ways to prevent the spread of HIV. Dybul added that this prevention strategy could change because he is not "sure 50% (of the budget) will be needed in five years."
Other HIV prevention strategies discussed during the hearing include programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and expansion of male circumcision, the Globe reports (Boston Globe, 12/12). The witnesses at the hearing also discussed the importance of PEPFAR programs that increase laboratory capacity and improve access to antiretroviral drugs, diagnostic testing for infants and nutrition for people living with HIV/AIDS (CQ HealthBeat, 12/11).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.