When President George W. Bush introduced the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the goal was (and still is) to eliminate HIV as a global public health threat.
A recent report from the CDC showed that by September 2022, approximately 20 million HIV-positive people across 54 countries were receiving PEPFAR-supported antiretroviral therapy (ART).
This number was up 300-fold from the 66,550 reported in 2004.
Additionally, those under PEPFAR who reported viral suppression (undetectable=untransmittable, U=U) increased from 80% to 95% between 2015-2022.
Researchers also discovered PEPFAR created critical public health infrastructure that helped out with other testing, including for the COVID-19 pandemic. The program’s new five-year strategy aims to eliminate HIV as a global public health threat by 2030, in line with the UN goal for the same.
“PEPFAR has not only made tremendous gains in the global response to the HIV epidemic, but also strengthened the systems that keep the world safe from other global health threats,” said Hank Thomlinson, director of CDC’s division of global HIV & tuberculosis, in a statement.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci also told the New York Times, “I knew it was going to be big, but I think it turned out to be even bigger and better than we thought. It should serve as a model of what can be done when you make a major commitment.”
Despite all of the progress, there are still miles to go in the fight against HIV. Health disparities won’t be eliminated unless social stigmas are addressed, and disproportionately affected groups like pregnant and breastfeeding women, minorities, children, teens, and prisoners need to have a higher focus of care.