Kerry: Africans' Access to U.S.-Funded AIDS Drugs Is 'Breathtaking Accomplishment'

Susan Jones | May 28, 2013 | 7:27am EDT
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jim Young, Pool)

( - Secretary of State John Kerry told leaders of the African Union on Saturday that "everyone ought to be proud" of the U.S. effort to fight AIDS in Africa:

"One of the most breathtaking accomplishments on earth is the fact that today more people in Africa have access to drugs that combat AIDS and HIV than (there) are people contracting those diseases. This is a transition of enormous proportion that everyone ought to be proud of," Kerry said.

He noted that this year marks the tenth anniversary of PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), a program launched by President George W. Bush in 2003 with support from Kerry, who was then a U.S. senator.

PEPFAR says its success in fighting the global AIDS epidemic is measured in lives "improved and saved." And the effort depends heavily on "the generous support of the American people."

Through fiscal year 2012, the U.S. government has committed $46 billion to HIV/AIDS programs, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and bilateral TB programs. (TB is the most common cause of death among people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.)

For fiscal year 2013, President Obama requested $6.42 billion, most of it to fight HIV/AIDS, and he's requesting another $6.73 billion for fiscal 2013.

According to PEPFAR:

-- American taxpayers directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for more than 5.1 million men, women, and children worldwide as of September 30, 2012, up from 1.7 million in 2008.

-- PEPFAR directly supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women in fiscal year 2012. PEPFAR supported antiretroviral drug treatment to more than 750,000 pregnant women with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission, allowing approximately 230,000 infants to be born without HIV.

-- PEPFAR directly supported more than 15 million people with care and support, including more than 4.5 million orphans and vulnerable children, in fiscal year 2012.

-- PEPFAR directly supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 46.5 million people in fiscal year 2012, providing a critical entry point to prevention, treatment, and care.

The PEPFAR website notes: "With continued support from the U.S. Congress, PEPFAR is on track to meet President Obama’s target goal of treating more than 6 million people by the end of 2013."

According to its FY 2013 operation plan, PEPFAR is "renewing and strengthening its focus on key populations both most at risk of contracting HIV and most stigmatized for their risk behaviors, including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers."

In addition to working toward an AIDS-free generation, PEPFAR also is focusing on "gender inequalities and gender-based violence," both of which "increase vulnerability to HIV," it said in its 2013 report to Congress.

PEPFAR is administered by the State Department's Global AIDS Coordinator, who provides the strategic direction for all of PEPFAR's activities.

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