Senate Holds Hearing on PEPFAR
November 6, 2007–The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on October 24 entitled “The Next Phase of the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS” to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act, which is set to expire in 2008.
Since the implementation of PEPFAR in 2004, progress has been made in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. More than $15 billion has been provided under PEPFAR for HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs in developing countries, funding that has been instrumental in increasing access to lifesaving antiretroviral medicine, improving care, and expanding prevention services.
At the hearing, Senator Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware) applauded the response led by the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, while calling for increased efforts to prevent HIV-infection and to addresss gender-based violence, tuberculosis, and malaria. Senator Biden called reauthorization the “first priority,” adding, “it is more important that we do this right than that we do it overnight.”
Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Indiana) echoed Senator Biden’s praise yet advocated a prompt reauthorization of the current legislation, asserting that “most of the Leadership Act’s provisions are sound and do not require alteration.” This position is not shared by a majority of AIDS advocacy organizations, which have repeatedly called for changes to the PEPFAR program, including a scaled-up focus on gender and youth and a removal of restrictions on prevention funding. PEPFAR currently mandates that 33 percent of all prevention funds must be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs, despite a lack of scientific evidence that these programs are effective in preventing the spread of HIV.