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Posts Tagged ‘Donald Payne’

Just as HIV experts are beginning to see new hope in beating the AIDS epidemic, a funding crisis threatens to throw us back a decade or more in the effort to combat this deadly virus. Dr. Peter Mugyenyi and other HIV experts delivered this forceful message to U.S. lawmakers today at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.

Dr. Mugyenyi, director of Uganda’s Joint Clinical Research Center, was one of several witnesses who urged Congress to keep its promise on global AIDS by fully funding PEPFAR, instead of approving the near flat budget proposed by the White House for FY 2011.

Dr. Peter Mugyenyi testifies before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee

Dr. Mugyenyi said that already, last year’s flat-funding has rippled across his home country of Uganda, forcing him and other health care providers to turn away sick patients who were promised treatment. Dr. Mugyenyi described having to turn away as many as 15 to 20 patients a day, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

“Recently, an HIV-infected woman who was breastfeeding her HIV-negative child because she could not afford formula milk came to our clinic, having been turned away from three other clinics in Kampala because they had no slots. She knew that every day she breast fed her baby without being on treatment greatly increased the chances of her child getting infected, but she had no alternative,” he said.

The situation, he said, jeopardizes the incredible gains PEPFAR has achieved in its first five years. “PEPFAR has saved millions of lives in Africa,” he said. “These people—and their mothers, husbands, wives and children—got a chance to live” because of PEPFAR. The program has “helped ease the carnage that I and my fellow health care providers used to witness on a daily basis.”

Dr. Mugyenyi pointed to recent studies showing that treatment with antiretroviral drugs can also help prevent new infections. Research released at CROI last month documented a 90 percent reduction in HIV transmission among so-called “discordant couples,” in which one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not.

“This gives credence to recent modeling by the World Health Organization that shows some of the first good news on prevention in several years: that we could truly end the AIDS crisis within a generation,” he said. “However, a funding crisis threatens to reverse these highly positive changes and we could miss the opportunity to defeat the epidemic.”

Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.Y., chairman of the subcommittee, said he was “deeply concerned about the reports that the fight against HIV/AIDS is faltering and that continued rapid roll out of AIDS treatment is endangered in Africa. We must make sure we don’t start a decline.”

The panelists and lawmakers alike commended President Obama’s proposed Global Health Initiative, with its call to spend $63 billion over six years and its promise of an integrated approach to foreign health assistance. But experts testified that the GHI would only work if it was adequately funded

And so far, said Joanne Carter, executive director of the RESULTS Educational Fund, there’s a gap between rhetoric and reality on US global health funding. The White House’s budget request for FY 2011 “essentially flat funds our global AIDS programs,” she said, noting it’s more than $2 billion short of what was promised in the Lantos-Hyde Act that reauthorized PEPFAR.

The White House budget also calls for a $50 million cut to the US contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And she noted that the GHI’s treatment targets for TB were significantly lower than mandated in Lantos-Hyde.

PEPFAR has been “nothing short of transformative,” Carter said. “We’ve made remarkable progress, and we can’t stop now.” (more…)

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Five key House lawmakers—including the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus—have called on the Obama Administration to step up its commitment to combating global AIDS.

In a letter to the president, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and other House members expressed concerned that “continued rapid roll out of AIDS treatment is endangered in Africa” and said the White House needed to dramatically ramp up funding in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. A similar letter, from a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, is expected to go to the White House later this week.

Despite broad support in Congress for expanding the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), demonstrated in last year’s reauthorization of that program as the Lantos-Hyde Act, “we will fail to meet its promise if the current funding trends continue,” the lawmakers wrote. In addition to Lee, the House letter was signed by Reps. Henry Waxman, Donald Payne, John Conyers, and Eliot Engel.

“Without expanded funding beyond these 2-3 percent rate increases, it will be incredibly difficult to substantially expand access to treatment, roll out promising prevention programs, train new health workers, or care for the millions of orphans,” as the Lantos-Hyde Act mandates, the letter states. “In order to get back on track with the authorization levels in Lantos-Hyde, we urge you to commit $7.5 billion for bilateral AIDS programs and $1.75 billion for the Global Fund in your fiscal year 2011 budget request.” The letter also calls on Obama to provide $650 million for bilateral tuberculosis programs and $924 million for malaria. (more…)

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