A recent analysis indicates that since 2004, a U.S. federal program has altered the global AIDS epidemic and saved an estimated 25 million lives. PEPFAR increased the number of persons taking HIV antiretroviral medication from just over 66,000 in 2004 to over 20 million in 2022, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. George W. Bush, the former president, initiated PEPFAR.
According to Hank Tomlinson, head of the CDC’s division of global HIV & tuberculosis, this implies a 300-fold increase in the number of persons receiving HIV treatment. From 2015 and 2022, the proportion of persons getting PEPFAR therapy who reported having the virus under control (viral suppression) climbed from 80% to 95%. Viral suppression prevents HIV transmission via intercourse and decreases the likelihood of transmission from mothers to infants.
Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer, said, “I vividly remember the early days of HIV and my work in the emergency department when HIV was frequently diagnosed in very late stages in patients, and there were few tools and therapies available for these individuals.” This new report demonstrates the extent to which progress has been accomplished.
PEPFAR also aided labs in fintesting for various diseases, such as during the COVID-19 epidemic, according to the findings of the researchers. The program’s five-year goal aims to eliminate HIV as a global public health problem by the year 2030.
“PEPFAR has improved the processes that keep the globe safe from other global health dangers,” Tomlinson explained. As the authors of the report lauded PEPFAR’s achievements, they also recognized care gaps caused by health disparities.
According to the research, while viral load suppression rates have reached 95%, rates remain low among pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, adolescents, and prisoners. The statistics also revealed lower rates among men and younger individuals compared to women and older individuals.
Maranda Ward, assistant professor of clinical research and leadership at George Washington University, stated that eliminating health disparities would be impossible without tackling the societal stigma still linked with HIV.
“We have our work cut out for us to guarantee that the positive scientific advances we have witnessed are reflected in the social realities of individuals exposed to HIV,” she said. It is the only approach to eradicate inequities across racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minoritized communities, which account for the greatest proportion of new HIV cases.
To reach PEPFAR’s goal by 2030, the CDC proposes that the international community continue its efforts and investments, address health disparities, promote global health security, and work with international partners. “To reach this objective by 2030, we must maintain this momentum,” added Houry. “The race to eradicate HIV has just begun.”