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Congress Recognizes Value of PEPFAR with Reauthorization; Funding Increases will be Critical

The Senate's approval Wednesday of legislation reauthorizing the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, following House approval earlier this month, acknowledges the critical role this groundbreaking program has played in reversing the trajectory of the AIDS pandemic, and strengthening responses against infectious diseases worldwide.

This acknowledgement comes in the week  a report released by the State Department in advance of World AIDS Day shows PEPFAR has, as of this year, supported services that allowed more than 2.4 million babies of mothers living with HIV to be born HIV-free; supported access to antiretroviral treatment that prevents illness as well as transmission of the virus for more than 14.6 million people – including 700,000 children; and supported HIV testing for 95 million people this year alone.

Members of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association know first-hand the value of these services, in preventing new infections and allowing people living with HIV to live near-normal life spans. For these reasons we have long advocated for robust support for PEPFAR, have applauded Congressional bipartisan efforts to strengthen and protect the program, and will continue to urge the implementation through PEPFAR of the most effective, proven measures to work toward a world in which HIV ceases to be a global public health threat.

With the theme of “Know your status,” however, the 30th World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 will find one in four people living with HIV still undiagnosed. In addition, out of every 10 people living with the virus, at least four remain without treatment. These gaps continue to put individual and public health at risk. And while tuberculosis has been a curable disease since the middle of the last century, it remains the leading killer of people with HIV.

These gaps highlight the critical need for the $50 million increase in PEPFAR funding proposed by the Senate, and the additional $41 million for USAID’s TB program proposed by the House in funding bills for FY 19. Now, Congress has until Dec.  7 to reaffirm its support for PEPFAR by passing a funding bill with these essential increases.

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