With all eyes on the President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech tonight, there is a lot on the docket for the country – from growing threats overseas to the economy here at home. Yet tonight is also twenty years and eleven days since one of the most consequential moments in the history of global health and promoting global health security around the world.
On January 28th, 2003, then-President George W. Bush announced in his State of the Union address that he proposed “a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa”. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) began that night with a pledge of $15 billion over five years to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.
With the announcement that Bono, co-founder of the ONE Campaign, will be one of the guests of First Lady Jill Biden tonight, does this signal a potentially new commitment of the United States to continue the work to combat HIV/AIDS across the world?
Twenty years later, the United States has committed more than $100 billion and saved more than 25 million lives through PEPFAR. Every year, in every Congress, both Republican- and Democrat-led, PEPFAR has remained an enduring legacy of American leadership in making lives better around the world.
Recently, the USGLC presented President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush with its “Global Leadership Award” and the former president spoke to his legacy. He called on Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR this year, speaking to the success of his signature HIV/AIDS Initiative, “I’m here to say as loud and clear as I can. Congress must fund PEPFAR… It works. It’s verifiable results and a few government programs can’t say that. But, anyway, this one can.”
And this year – marking the January 28, 2003 speech – many have lauded PEPFAR’s long history of success saying:
“Helping lead the bipartisan effort in Congress to authorize PEPFAR is among my proudest achievements from my time in the Senate. To this day, PEPFAR remains a powerful example of America’s unmatched ability to drive progress and make life better for people around the world.” – President Joe Biden
“With bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress and the generosity of the American people, PEPFAR has provided over 20.1 million people with life-saving HIV treatment in over 55 countries. These efforts have built, and continue to build, a stronger health infrastructure in many countries, improving health security and responses to other health crises such as COVID-19, mpox, and Ebola.” – Secretary of State Antony Blinken
“Today, controlling the HIV epidemic remains entirely within reach. We must now focus on building on our progress – continuing to effectively engage with, and meet the needs of, the most affected populations, and working toward truly equitable access to HIV treatment and services.” – Administrator Samantha Power, USAID
“PEPFAR’s success has been made possible by the twenty-year strong bipartisan support—across US congresses and presidential administrations—and the incredible compassion and generosity of the American people.” – Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4), Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee, US House of Representatives
“As the co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, I will continue to support this bipartisan effort to build upon what we have already achieved to #EndAIDS once and for all. PEPFAR has become the bedrock for fighting against HIV & AIDS around the world. Since its establishment 20 years ago, 25 million lives have been saved while also preventing millions of infections & providing care to those afflicted by the disease.” – Representative Jenniffer González (R-PR)
“PEPFAR is a true example of how world leaders can make commitments that have a real impact in preventing disease around the world.” – Bill Gates, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
“At a moment when some other bilateral donors retreated from their global commitments, the United States Administration and Congress continued to give strong, and critical support to PEPFAR, enabling countries to transition from epidemic control towards ending their AIDS epidemics. Together we are rallying other donors to follow the United States’ example.” Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director
The generosity of American taxpayers has allowed our country to lead in fight to end HIV/AIDS for the past twenty years. Our hope is that we are able to continue to do so for another twenty and beyond.
Throughout the years, both parties have also expressed their support of PEPFAR:
“We should come together as Republicans and Democrats, as Americans, as human being to stop this vast catastrophe [AIDS] to attack it with all that we’ve got… We should come together as Republicans and Democrats, as Americans, as human being to stop this vast catastrophe [AIDS] to attack it with all that we’ve got.” – Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Foreign Relations Committee
“As an original author of PEPFAR, I am incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in the last 15 years to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. PEPFAR has saved millions of lives around the world and helped those with the disease live with dignity and security.” – Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee
“With continued U.S. support and the increasing leadership of partner governments, PEPFAR is in position to control the epidemic. I’m proud to have played a role in continuing to reauthorize this successful global public health effort.” – Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2015-2019)
“PEPFAR has improved and saved the lives of millions with HIV/AIDS. One of my best achievements in Congress was my work to establish this important program, which was a bipartisan effort that demonstrates that transformative ideas are truly nonpartisan. Over the last 15 years, PEPFAR has gotten us steps closer to controlling HIV by 2020 and to achieving an AIDS-free generation.” – Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-17)
Photo Credit: Grant Miller for the George W. Bush Presidential Center/CC 2.0