The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW Global), and the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global), stand united in our support for the reauthorisation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Over the years, PEPFAR has played a pivotal role in ending AIDS, and its impact on the lives of children, young people, women, and key populations cannot be overstated.
From its inception in 2003, PEPFAR has been a beacon of hope for all people living with HIV globally, particularly in resource-limited settings where access to life-saving treatment was a distant dream.
An estimated 20 million people are currently on HIV treatment and 1.5 million have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis thanks to PEPFAR. The programme has helped to prevent an estimated 25 million HIV-related deaths, and 5.5 million children were born HIV-free. Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction is a step forward for a comprehensive response to HIV, building on significant progress while addressing persistent gaps and inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in our current drive to meet global HIV goals, PEPFAR remains an indispensable weapon in our arsenal.”
“One of the most remarkable achievements of PEPFAR has been its unwavering commitment to addressing the unique needs of all people living with and affected by HIV,” says Florence Anam, Co-Executive Director of GNP+. “The program has worked tirelessly to ensure that children born with HIV have access to early diagnosis and treatment, giving them the chance to lead healthy lives. Moreover, PEPFAR’s investments in paediatrics research and treatment have paved the way for innovations that have saved countless young lives.”
Adolescent girls and young women have long been recognised as a priority population in the response. PEPFAR has prioritised this demographic, implementing programs that empower them with knowledge about sexual and reproductive health and providing access to HIV prevention methods. The focus on the unique vulnerabilities faced by young women, PEPFAR is helping to build resilience, break the cycle of transmission and protect future generations.
“PEPFAR has empowered women living with HIV to live in a world where HIV is not a barrier to our dreams,” emphasises Kneeshe Parkinson, Vice Chair of ICW Global “It has shown us that when we work together, women can overcome even the greatest challenges. Let’s renew our commitment to ending the HIV epidemic, ensuring sexual reproductive health and rights for all women, and empowering the most marginalised among us.”
Key populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs, have historically faced discrimination and marginalisation, making them more susceptible to HIV. PEPFAR has been instrumental in preventing new HIV transmissions and ensuring that all people living with HIV receive the care and support they need. Through partnerships with community-based organisations, PEPFAR has created safe spaces where key populations can access testing, treatment, counselling and support services without fear of stigma or discrimination.
“For young people living with and affected by HIV, PEPFAR is not just a program; it’s a promise of a brighter tomorrow,” asserts Maximina Jokonya, Interim Executive Director for Y+ Global. “It has provided us with the tools and resources to advocate for our own health and well-being. Let us not falter now but continue to work hand-in-hand, and empower future generations of youth leaders to drive meaningful change.”
One of the most impressive aspects of PEPFAR’s work is its emphasis on sustainability. PEPFAR has invested in strengthening healthcare systems in the countries it serves, ensuring that the progress made in ending AIDS and new HIV transmission is secured in the phase of current and emerging trends of climate change and new pandemics. This long-term vision is essential for maintaining the gains achieved over the years.
In the words of Florence Anam, Co-Executive Director of GNP+: “PEPFAR has been a lifeline for people living with HIV, including children, women, and key populations, globally. It has not only saved lives but has empowered all of us and the communities to take control of our health. Reauthorising PEPFAR is not just a moral imperative; it is a strategic investment in a healthier, more equitable future.”, underscores Anam.
PEPFAR continues to show commitment towards SDG 3 by working to eliminate inequalities that keep people from accessing health care services and keeping the voices of People Living with HIV at the Centre of PEPFAR’s response.
As we advocate for the reauthorization of PEPFAR, we must also recognise the threat of complacency. HIV is far from being defeated, and the gains made through PEPFAR’s and other partners, with the leadership of UNAIDS efforts can easily be eroded. We must continue to prioritise research, innovation, and access to care for all who need it, with a person-centred, rights-based gender equitable sustainable response. There are 9 million people living with HIV who are not on treatment.
GNP+, ICW Global, and Y+ Global, urges policymakers and the US congress to reauthorise PEPFAR to pave the way for a HIV free generation.