USAID ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER
JANUARY 28, 2023
In 2003, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization estimated that up to 45 million people around the world were infected with HIV. Close to 19 million – or more than a third – of those patients lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet even though the first antiretroviral treatment that stopped AIDS from multiplying had been discovered over 15 years before, only 50,000 people across Africa could access this treatment. That year, more than two million died of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone – up to two out of every three AIDS-related deaths around the world.
Then, President George W. Bush announced in his 2003 State of the Union that the U.S. government was launching the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program was the largest commitment in history specifically to combat a disease, and it focused on the countries and communities that were most affected by HIV, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.
Since its launch, PEPFAR has evolved to become one of the world’s most critical global health initiatives. Led in part by USAID, the program works with other federal agencies, partner governments, private sector companies, philanthropies, multilateral organizations, civil society and faith-based organizations, and communities to provide lifesaving treatment for millions of infected patients. Thanks to the work of these partners as well as researchers, healthcare workers, and advocates around the world, the program has saved more than 25 million lives – helping to turn the tide against HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the launch of PEPFAR – an anniversary that comes at a time when the dual threats of COVID-19 and HIV have placed immense strain on health systems across the globe. Yet our experience working to reduce the threat of HIV, and the lessons we learned along the way, helped us respond more effectively to COVID-19. At the outset of the pandemic, USAID, along with partners around the world, leveraged PEPFAR supply chain systems to provide support for the delivery of vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments. And USAID-supported PEPFAR health workers and staff – numbering nearly 200,000 – continued to provide life-saving HIV treatment alongside COVID-19 services.
These accomplishments are all cause for optimism – as is the fact that 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. I’m grateful for the efforts of our dedicated staff and partners around the world, and for their continued commitment to the U.S. government’s goal of ending HIV as a public health threat by the end of the decade.