December 1st is World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, and for mourning those who have died of the disease. This year’s theme is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.
Publicity generated by the annual World AIDS Day observance, along with the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000, contributed to greater global awareness and action around the need to expand HIV treatment to those in need. In 2003, the administration of President George W. Bush established the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR – the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally – which has since enjoyed strong bipartisan support.
There are some 38 million people living with AIDS today. Of these, 68 percent of adults received life-saving antiretroviral therapy as of June 2020. Despite these seemingly enormous numbers, UNAIDS notes that AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 60 percent since they peaked in 2004, and new infections are down by 40 percent since 1997.
Much of that success can be ascribed to the U.S. government, working through PEPFAR. Over the nearly 18 years since its inception, PEPFAR has saved 20 million lives and prevented millions of HIV infections. Working in over 50 countries, PEPFAR helped to create order out of chaos as it supported partner countries to take control of their HIV/AIDS epidemics.
Through September 30 of this year PEPFAR has supported lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for nearly 17.2 million people; enabled 2.8 million babies to be born HIV-free to mothers living with HIV; and provided critical care and support for 6.7 million orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers.
This year the Covid-19 pandemic presents special challenges to the global HIV/AIDS response. Nonetheless, partner countries have been able to leverage the facilities, laboratories and supply chains supported by PEPFAR to strengthen their local COVID-19 response, and to prevent slow-downs or backsliding in its HIV/AIDS response.
“American leadership in the global response to HIV/AIDS is clear and as strong as ever through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” said President Donald Trump.“These efforts have...moved the HIV/AIDS pandemic from crisis toward control – community by community.”