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US Officials See Progress and Challenges in Fight Against AIDS

  • James Butty

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Michele Molonye-Kitts say US funding has led to advancement in global AIDS treatment

The director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS but that scientific challenges remain in developing curative therapies and a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. National Institutes of Health has spent about $42 billion from 1982 through fiscal year 2009 on HIV/AIDS research.

He said this funding has led to the advancement of treatment which he said is transforming the lives of those infected with HIV/AIDS.

“With the association of major effort on the part of the developed world to get drugs to people in the developing world, including PEPFAR, the Global Fund, the philanthropic organization, we now have about 4 million people in low and middle income countries on antiretroviral therapy,” he said.

Fauci said millions of people today are on antiretroviral treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to an estimated 50,000 people, mostly the wealthy, in 2002.

“It is estimated now that there has been about 1.2 million lives saved over a three-year period from 2004 to 2007 with that program,” he said.

But Fauci said the bad news is that only about 42 percent of those with advanced HIV in the developing world have access to antiretroviral drugs.

In 2003, the U.S. government launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief known as PEPFAR to fight AIDS.

Michele Moloney-Kitts, assistant coordinator in the office of PEPFAR said the U.S. government to date has provided about $25 billion, making it the largest donor in the global fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

She said the U.S. government will release the most recent data on PEPFAR on December 1.

In the meantime, Moloney-Kitts said up to September 30, 2008, PEPFAR has supported more than 10 million people affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide.

She said under the Obama administration gender equity in HIV/AIDS activities and services will get increasing attention.

“HIV is definitely a disease that disproportionately affects women and the reasons why are because women have less power certainly in the sexually lives, often in family decisions…they certainly have more limited access to HIV/AIDS services,” she said.

Asked whether the U.S. restriction on abortion was hindering the progress of some countries to reduce the rate of HIV infections, Moloney-Kitts said the U.S. has never and does not fund abortion.

“The U.S. government has never and will never fund abortions. It’s not part of our prevention policy; it is not part of development assistance program; it’s not part of our family planning program; we just don’t do that. It’s against the law,” she said.

Moloney-Kitts said PEPFAR under the Obama administration will also focus on what she calls sustainability so that partner governments would be able to sustain PEPFAR programs on their own in the future.

“Critical to sustainability is that countries and governments really own their epidemic and own their response; what do we need to do to help change things in the long term,” she said.

Moloney-Kitts said the U.S. will continue to collaborate with other donors, particularly the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to maximize program efficiency.

Both Fauci and Moloney-Kitts addressed journalists Tuesday at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C. ahead of World AIDS Day December 1.