Leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on October 15, 2018, said they are pleased with the government’s reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In a prepared statement, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), said that the program has saved millions of lives.
Since its inception in 2003, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support in Congress and through administrations, including two reauthorizations with significant majorities. Originally conceived as a compassionate effort to deliver lifesaving services in countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, PEPFAR is now also undertaking the challenge of controlling the pandemic. It is the iconic brand of U.S. government engagement in health, development, security, and diplomacy, unparalleled in its capacity to deliver clear, measurable, and transformative results and impact.
Working in over 50 countries, PEPFAR has advanced the global HIV/AIDS response. The effort supports more than 14 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. This is compared with the only 50,000 people who were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa when PEPFAR began.
For the first time, the latest PEPFAR data also show significant declines in new HIV diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women. In the 10 African countries (63 districts) implementing PEPFAR’s pioneering DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) public-private partnership, the majority (65 percent) of the highest-HIV-burden communities or districts achieved greater than a 25-40 percent decline in new HIV diagnoses among young women. Importantly, new diagnoses declined in nearly all DREAMS intervention districts.
With PEPFAR support, more than 2.2 million babies have been born HIV-free to pregnant women living with HIV and their mothers have been kept healthy and alive to protect and nurture them. PEPFAR also provides assistance to more than 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers.
The Full Statement by the Bishops
“We welcome Congressional reauthorization of PEPFAR, which has so far saved millions of lives, prevented millions of new infections and supported 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers around the world. The action on the PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee paves the way for final passage and for another five years of U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV, TB, and Malaria and the protection and support of orphans and vulnerable children.
“Although we have principled concerns about certain aspects of PEPFAR and the Global Fund prevention activities that we find inconsistent with Catholic teaching and do not implement or advocate for those activities, overall PEPFAR is one of the most successful global health programs in history demonstrating U.S. leadership in saving lives and safeguarding human dignity of the most vulnerable people. Through the work of PEPFAR, in partnership with other governments and communities, the U.S. has changed the course of the AIDS pandemic globally. Since 2003 when it was first authorized, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support in Congress.
“The legislation also sets U.S. policy for the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Health programs supported by the Global Fund partnership have saved 27 million lives as of the end of 2017. Overall, the number of deaths caused by AIDS, TB, and malaria each year has been reduced by one-third since 2002 in countries where the Global Fund invests.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Chairmen Royce, Smith and Corker, Ranking Members Engel, Bass and Menendez as well as Representatives Barbara Lee and Betty McCollum and Senator Cardin, for their work to ensure that children were not forgotten in this bill. Saving lives and protecting the future of vulnerable children is a proud U.S. legacy thanks to the U.S. Congress.”