The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR): 20 Years of Impact

By: Aimee Rurangwa, PEPFAR-Ethiopia Country Coordinator

February 8, 2023

2023 marks the twentieth anniversary of PEPFAR, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  Launched by President George W. Bush in 2003, PEPFAR has been a beacon of hope and compassion for millions of people living with or at risk for HIV across the globe.  Thanks to the generosity of the American people, PEPFAR has helped save more than 25 million lives.  We commit ourselves to ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.

In Ethiopia, PEPFAR has invested nearly $3 billion to support the HIV/AIDS response.  Through PEPFAR, nearly 2.7 million adults have received vital HIV testing and counseling, and over 349,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and their caretakers have received crucial care and support every year.  PEPFAR has enabled the provision of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) for over 450,000 men, women, and children, accounting for 98% of the treatment being offered nationally at more than 1,000 sites.

PEPFAR has also made significant investments in strengthening health systems, investing close to $125 million in the construction of state-of-the-art national and regional reference laboratories, the renovation of hospital laboratories, the implementation of laboratory quality standards, and the accreditation of high-volume testing laboratories.

The U.S. Government has been proud to collaborate with Ethiopia and its many partners over the past two decades to combat HIV/AIDS.  As part of the partnership agenda, PEPFAR works with civil society organizations, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the World Health Organization to strengthen systems, monitor the epidemic, improve service delivery models, and ensure program sustainability.

Working together, these organizations have made a remarkable impact on the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.  Our contribution in Ethiopia has helped reduce the HIV prevalence from 4.4% in 2003 to 0.9% in 2022, and AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 79%.  This is a testament to the success of PEPFAR and U.S. Government’s contributions to the Global Fund.

On this 20th anniversary, we are recommitting ourselves to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.  Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, who oversees PEPFAR, emphasizes the importance of partnerships in achieving this goal, noting that “Nothing can be achieved without partnerships—it is one of the key drivers of the remarkable impact the PEPFAR program has had over the past 20 years and partnerships are critical to the program’s future success.”  The U.S. Government is dedicated to supporting partner governments in effectively using local capacity to achieve and sustain near-universal prevention and treatment coverage of HIV/AIDS.

The end of HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is an ambitious but achievable goal.  As President Joseph R. Biden declared on World AIDS Day 2022, “We finally have the scientific understanding, treatments, and tools to build an AIDS-free future where everyone – no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love – can get the care and respect they deserve.”