An AIDS-Free Generation is Still Within Reach
November 30, 2023
By Doug Fountain, CCIH Executive Director
From the American perspective, November and December mark the beginning of a holiday run that reminds us to be Thankful (Thanksgiving), Joyful (Christmas), and Hopeful (New Year). It is fitting that World AIDS Day lands in this season and helps ignite all three of those emotions.
We are thankful that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria are working hand in hand toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation by 2030. Their work hinges on the right funding and support.
We’re joyful that due to PEPFAR’s leadership (and partnership with the faith community), the results achieved are enormous. These successes are both impressive and are cause for praise. Through PEPFAR we’ve seen:
- 25 million lives saved
- 5.5 million babies born HIV-free
- 20.1 million people receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment
- 64.7 million people tested to know their status
- 7 million orphans and vulnerable children receiving support services
- 340 thousand healthcare workers trained
However, the largest achievement by PEPFAR cannot be measured. It is the acknowledgment that human life has a dignity that must be protected and preserved. That the most powerful force is hope for a brighter tomorrow. It is the hope that we can provide treatment to those who are HIV-positive and can also prevent disease transmission.
Despite the reasons for thanks, joy, and hope, there is a dark cloud over this World AIDS Day. For the first time in 20 years, we are recognizing this day without a fully reauthorized PEPFAR.
Our Partners Are Doing Their Part – Let’s Do Ours
I’m in Africa for partner meetings as I write this, visiting several southern African countries. We know PEPFAR is working thanks to data and first-hand testimonials from our partners who lead Christian health systems in Africa. As I meet with our African partners, they tell me what they have done with PEPFAR support.
Karen Sichinga, Executive Director of the Churches Health Association of Zambia told me, “I’m aware that the US Government contributes 33 percent to the Global Fund, which has saved lives and kept youth in school. Just in 2022, CHAZ averted HIV infection of 98.6 percent of exposed babies; supported 7,866 adolescents to stay in school, and educated 37,478 youth on sexuality that helped reduce teen pregnancies from 4.4% in 2020 to 1.8% in 2022.” Top photo shows CHAZ laboratory staff Albert Chisanga checking viral load samples in preparation for the Centrifuge machine. Courtesy of CHAZ
Results like this are neither an accident or a one-off occurrence. It is the result of deliberate planning and investment that has its roots in the early days of PEPFAR.
Photo: Karen Sichinga explains that Global Fund support helped the CHAZ laboratory become a world-class lab, dramatically lowering wait times for early disease identification and HIV testing.
President George W. Bush made a bold move when his administration launched PEPFAR in 2003. He was guided by his faith and had the support of American Evangelicals. We have evidence and data to show his courage and conviction paid off.
Conversely, we don’t have evidence behind harmful rumors that currently threaten the program.
Above photo: Cartridges for Early Infant HIV Diagnosis ready for testing at the CHAZ laboratory. Courtesy of CHAZ
I urge everyone to get the facts about PEPFAR and learn why we must continue doing our part to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 – a mere six years away. I especially urge Christians to understand why these rumors are unfounded and harmful.
Our African partners are doing their part; let’s do ours and finish the job so no child is born with HIV and men, women, and children can thrive. Thankful for health, joyful in life, and hopeful for the future.
Photo of children playing: Brian Odwar/Pixabay