A plan to eliminate the rising rates of new HIV diagnoses in sub-Saharan Africa based on the United Nations’ “90-90-90” strategy, which aims to have 90 percent of the population know their status, 90 percent of HIV-positive people to be on treatment, and 90 percent of HIV-positive to suppress their viral load to undetectable levels — all by the year 2020 — might very well be thwarted.
If the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts on programs supplying antiretroviral drugs to nearly 11.5 million worldwide who can’t afford them is granted, researchers say at least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, according to The New York Times.
Let me give you an idea of how drastic these cuts will be:
Currently, the United States spends nearly $6 billion each year to supply meds for those across the world. And domestically, the government invests over $27 billion per year through programs like the Ryan White Program, AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, Medicaid, and Medicare, according to AIDS.gov.
What the Trump administration wants to do is slice the $6 billion spent around the world by 20 percent, requiring $1.1 billion to be taken away from these programs, which are a reason why countries like South Africa can supply immediate treatment for those who test positive for HIV.
Without access to care, not only will we have more people without medicine; we’ll also see a huge and steep decline of HIV-positive people who are undetectable, seeing as they won’t able to access treatment. That means they stand a higher chance of transmitting the virus to others — something they wouldn’t have to worry about if they were being treated.
As a result, the incredible progress made in the last couple decades to decrease HIV transmission in this part of the world is likely to reverse itself in a few short years. We can’t let this happen!
Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, established by George W. Bush as an effort to end the epidemic in African countries, the country is able to fund programs and continue research. Barack Obama even expanded Pepfar, merging it with the Global Fund and other efforts to help see a decline in new HIV diagnoses. But Trump doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it despite the program funding anti-HIV efforts for over 60 countries. It doesn’t seem to matter so long as Trump gets his way.
And worse, amfAR calculates that every $100 million saves around 133,000 lives. If these programs are cut, we should also expect a drastic number of deaths.
In a briefing for reporters in Washington D.C., The New York Times reports that Hard Sastry, director of the State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, said that everyone now receiving drug treatments under the programs would be allowed to continue, even if the funding cuts were approved.
But J. Stephen Morrison, who directs global health work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there’s an invisible consequence here:
“All of these programs have multiplier effects beyond just those immediately served by them,” he said. “For the first time ever, after 15 years of steady growth, we’re going to see a radical regression that will have huge effects.”