Cuts to AIDS treatment programs could cost a million lives

Much of the United States government funding for AIDS treatment and research is channeled through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which was established in 2004 by the President George W. Bush in an attempt to save Africa from an epidemic that threatened to kill a large part of the population of entire countries, such as Botswana and Namibia.

President Barack Obama has expanded Pepfar, and combined with the Global Fund and other international efforts, the spending is widely credited with stopping the AIDS epidemic. On 37 million people in the world are infected with HIV, including nearly two million children. About one million people died of AIDS in 2015, and two million were newly infected that year.

Pepfar finances activities in the fight against AIDS in more than 60 countries. But during Tuesday’s briefing, Sastry said the Trump administration plans to ensure that the United States “focuses its efforts on the 12 high-burden countries to achieve control of the epidemic.”

He did not name these 12 countries, but in recent years the program concentrated much of his work in ten African countries, as well as Haiti, Vietnam and Guyana.

The Trump administration has also proposed to cut $ 524 million in funding for contraceptives and other family planning efforts that primarily benefit women in developing countries.

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement posted on his Facebook page that the proposed cuts in family planning “would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, more maternal deaths.”

“This budget threatens to trap millions of additional families in a cycle of poverty,” she said.

It’s unclear how many lives could be lost as a direct result of budget cuts, but the Global Fund estimates that every $ 100 million invested saves an estimated 133,000 lives. An amfAR calculation found a similar effect, suggesting that the administration’s proposed cuts to AIDS programs alone could cost more than a million lives and orphan more than 300,000 children.

“All of these programs have multiplier effects beyond what they immediately serve,” said J. Stephen Morrison, who heads global health work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For the very first time, after 15 years of steady growth, we are going to witness a radical regression that will have enormous effects. “

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