PEPFAR: New Approach for HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control

9. PEPFAR: New Approach for HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control

The creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 stimulated a significant increase in funding for and attention to the pandemic. When the program was originally implemented, its focus was to provide urgently needed treatment to individuals in countries that experienced the most deaths caused by HIV/AIDS.

New data shows that five African countries are close to reaching full control of their HIV/AIDS epidemic. This tremendous progress initiated a new vision and landmark strategy for achieving control of the epidemic in up to 13 high-burdened countries by the end of 2020.

The PEPFAR 2017-2020 Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control was released in September 2017. The Epidemic Control Strategy accelerates implementation and focuses efforts on 13 high-burdened countries: Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The report outlines particular steps that are vital to the new 2017-2020 strategy. Accelerating HIV testing and treatment to reach men under the age of 35 is at the top of the agenda for the new strategy. Currently, more than half of men 35 and younger in target countries do not know their status and are not being treated. This is part of a detrimental cycle, fueling the epidemic in young women 15-24 years old.

HIV prevention will be expanded, particularly focusing on young women under the age of 25 and young men under the age of 30. This includes intensifying the efforts of girls to become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) and the expansion of voluntary medical male circumcision.

Other steps in the new HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control Strategy include continued use of granular epidemiologic and cost data in order to improve and increase the program’s impact and effectiveness, renewed engagement with faith-based and private sector organizations and strengthened policy and financial contributions by partner governments.

HIV/AIDS is both a cause and a result of poverty. The epidemic slows economic growth, reduces access to education and overall presents an obstacle to sustainable development. Healthy populations are a prerequisite for prosperous and stable societies. PEPFAR’s unwavering commitment to control and ultimately end the pandemic not only saves millions of lives but also enhances global public health and security.

PEPFAR’s new HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control Strategy has the potential to set the course for epidemic control in all PEPFAR-supported countries. For the first time, the end of the epidemic as a public health threat is in sight.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr