Fifteen years ago, heeding President George W. Bush’s call in his State of the Union address for a “work of mercy” for HIV/AIDS, the U.S. Congress appropriated $15 billion for a five-year plan to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and the Caribbean. The program, dubbed PEPFAR: the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was the largest commitment ever made by any country across the globe to fight a disease.
Now, three presidential administrations and eight U.S. Congresses later, the program’s funding is up for renewal once again.
Aleena Khan, a Birmingham-based volunteer with The ONE Campaign — a policy and advocacy organization of more than 9 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa — is asking Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby to continue America’s leadership in the fight against global poverty and preventable disease.
“This Sunday marks 15 years since President George W. Bush first signed PEPFAR, the United States’ signature, bipartisan and fully authorized, global HIV/AIDS program into law. America’s bipartisan leadership in the fight against AIDS has been transformative,” said Khan. “Our remarkable progress — over 14 million lives saved — is a testament to leaders of both parties, Republicans and Democrats, placing lives above politics.”
Earlier this year, a group of Alabamians, including Khan, traveled to Washington to meet with Shelby’s staff to urge him to continue America’s leadership in the fight against global poverty and preventable disease. They are worried Shelby will follow President Donald Trump‘s proposed budget requests and cut $470 million from PEPFAR funding, a 10.8 percent cut from the FY18 enacted level,
“As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shelby has the opportunity to continue the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is the bedrock of PEPFAR,” Khan continued. “As we mark the 15th anniversary, I hope Senator Shelby will champion this important program and fully fund PEPFAR so that it can aggressively add more people to treatment wherever it is needed.”