U.S. Foreign Aid During COVID-19The year 2020’s sudden outbreak of COVID-19 caught many countries off guard. The U.S. is demonstrating its status as a global superpower by releasing economic, medical and other foreign aid during COVID-19.

5 Facts About US Foreign Aid During COVID-19

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has given more than $1.5 billion to different governments and organizations during the pandemic. The government split the money among various humanitarian, developmental and economic programs and organizations. The aid aims to help sustain governments at risk during the pandemic. It also intends to make the public more aware of COVID-19 and how to combat it. Additionally, the aid from the U.S. will go toward improving health education and hospitals, funding quick response teams capable of inhibiting COVID-19’s spread. The U.S. Government has also planned a $4 billion relief fund to aid high-risk countries through COVAX, a program that provides vaccines to low-income countries.
  2. The U.S. State Department works alongside other organizations. USAID and the CDC help the U.S. Government provide the necessary aid to countries at high risk. Congress created an emergency fund of $2.4 billion with the purpose of supporting both humanitarian programs and security and stabilization programs for countries in need. For example, foreign aid helps countries create safe and secure ways for citizens to receive necessary medical care during the pandemic.
  3. The U.S. gave the most foreign aid in 2020. In 2020, the U.S. gave around $35 billion in aid, with Germany close behind at just shy of $30 billion. The global amount of money that has gone toward COVID-19 relief measures is equal to about $16 trillion. U.S. foreign aid during COVID-19 is only around 1% of that. The majority of foreign aid during COVID-19 went toward short-term solutions, such as the aforementioned public health education programs and hospital care programs.
  4. U.S. foreign aid programs help combat more than just COVID-19. Recently, the House of Representatives passed an $11 billion bill to support countries in need, including through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. The U.S. has approved $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 aid. Of that $1.9 trillion, the U.S. has dedicated $11 billion to fight the global pandemic. That $11 billion includes $800 million for aid programs from the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as the CDC Global Fund. The remaining $10 billion will support global health, humanitarian aid and economic aid.

To conclude, the U.S. has provided more aid than any other nation to help countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed many at-risk countries to minimize or at least lessen the impact of the disease.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

HIV in SwazilandBy scaling up testing and treatment efforts in the past years, Swaziland has achieved big successes in the fight against the HIV epidemic. As a new study shows, more than 73 percent of adults living with HIV now have viral load suppression (VLS) and the rate of new infections with HIV in Swaziland has dropped by 44 percent since 2011.

With more than 27 percent of the adult population infected in 2016, Swaziland is the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world. UNICEF reports that the epidemic’s effects are felt across all aspects of society: the high prevalence of the virus draws financial resources from other priority areas and burdens the country’s health system. It also affects capital accumulation and productivity negatively. Families and communities are disrupted by the virus and the number of orphans and vulnerable children has increased.

In the past years, prevention and treatment to fight the HIV epidemic were scaled up significantly in the small monarchy. The Swazi government received support for these efforts from the U.S. government President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Swaziland’s strategy to contain the further spread of HIV is to dose patients with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) immediately after they have tested positive, regardless of their health status.

ARVs drive down the HIV level in the blood, therefore reducing the risk of transmission of the virus. The concept of treatment-as-prevention aims to contain the further spread of the HI virus, and is “a major part of the solution to ending the HIV epidemic”, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The number of adults with HIV in Swaziland who have their viral load suppressed has doubled in the past five years and is now at more than 73 percent, according to the second Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey.

PEPFAR director Deborah Birx emphasizes that this method does not eliminate HIV in the country, but it can “contract the epidemic on our way to vaccine and a cure.”

The Swazi Ministry of Health has also developed a plan to encourage boys and men to get circumcised voluntarily. In the past years, an increased number of males opted for circumcision. According to the WHO, there is “compelling evidence” that circumcision lower the risk of female-to-male transmissions by 60 percent.

These up-scaled efforts to fight HIV in Swaziland have come to fruition: compared to 2011, the rate of new infections was cut by 44 percent.

In addition to these successes, the incidence survey also brings light to “key gaps that remain in reaching younger men and women with HIV services,” Birx said. People aged 15 to 24 are lagging behind older age groups; they were found to be less likely to know their status, and of those receiving treatment, a quarter did not suppress their infections.

Not only does the information from the survey offer an opportunity for the Swazi government to improve its efforts further and increase focus on the population groups with the greatest need, but it also adds important scientific evidence to the research about the treatment-as-prevention method.

Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane from the Ministry of Health said, in reaction to the study’s outcomes: “We are very encouraged by this progress. We understand that the battle is not over, and therefore we must maintain the momentum.”

Lena Riebl