Reimagining PEPFAR to Ensure Equity: Access to Quality, People-Centered HIV Prevention and Treatment Services

By: Dr. Aimee Rurangwa, PEPFAR Ethiopia Country Coordinator

On World AIDS Day, commemorated on December 1 every year, we pay tribute to the millions who are infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide and reflect on our efforts towards ending HIV/AIDS. On this day, we also renew our commitment to supporting the wellbeing of those with HIV, as well as those at risk for infection.  The U.S. government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2022 is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.” This highlights the importance of ensuring equitable access to quality, people-centered HIV prevention and treatment services, and the need for diverse voices of all affected to be heard and valued.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) partners with the government of Ethiopia to effectively create enabling policies, systems, and capabilities to deliver effective, efficient, and sustainable health care, mainly HIV/AIDS, even in times of great public health adversity.

Through PEPFAR, the United States remains deeply committed to sustainability in controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to helping end the inequities that widen gaps in service delivery that have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and other factors.

The threats to controlling the global HIV/AIDS pandemic are real. Many countries with the highest disease burden have reached epidemic control of HIV or are positioned to do so, and Ethiopia is one of the countries on track to reaching this goal.

To date, PEPFAR-Ethiopia has supported the provision of lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART) for 456,348 men and women, including 12,696 children, which accounts for 98% of the treatment being offered nationally at more than 1,000 sites. More than 360,000 orphans and vulnerable children, as well as their caregivers, received critical care and support services.

PEPFAR also strengthens health systems, investing close to $125 million, and has made significant investments in laboratory systems in Ethiopia through the construction of state-of-the-art national and regional reference laboratories and the renovation of hospital laboratories, as well as through the implementation of laboratory quality standards and accreditation of high-volume testing laboratories. Our investments include six regional referral laboratories, nine outpatient centers and maternity complexes, a national public health training center, 22 new health centers, and 10 pharmaceutical warehouses.

We must remember that progress is not guaranteed and can be easily reversed without focused, sustained, and equitable action. PEPFAR continues to support programs to ensure access to HIV services, including core prevention services that were affected by early COVID-19 mitigation measures and by the conflict.  Many of prevention programs have since expanded significantly while safely prioritizing clients and service providers.

Through PEPFAR, the American people are committed to leveraging our investments effectively to make measurable and sustainable gains in Ethiopia’s public health system and to prevent and control HIV/AIDS.

The reimagining of PEPFAR’s strategic direction sets a bold course of actions for achieving and sustaining the impact of the HIV/AIDS response, firmly focused on health equity, suitability, health system security, partnership, and science.

This World AIDS Day, we must recommit and re-energize all sectors of society to center equity within the HIV response by ensuring that everyone with HIV and those at-risk of acquiring HIV infection have access to appropriate HIV testing, treatment, and prevention services.

Together, we can and will control the HIV/AIDS pandemic and save precious lives.