The US government’s new plan comes on the heels of reports that 5 African countries are poised to gain complete control over their HIV epidemics.
Today, September 19, 2017, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, revealed the new the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control (2017-2020). This new plan comes on the heels of new Population-based HIV Impact Assessments (PHIA) data from the PEPFAR which shows that 5 African countries are on the brink of fully controlling the HIV epidemics in their countries. Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are the first 4 countries, and now, new data reveals that Lesotho can be added to the list.
In Lesotho, the newest country added to the list, over 67% of all HIV-positive adults ages 15-59 have been able to achieve viral load suppression, according to the latest PHIA results. These data suggest that the country is well on its way to hit the 90-90-90 targets set forth by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) by 2020. PHIA data from 7 additional countries is still being collected and is set to be revealed on a rolling basis through 2017 to 2019.
According to a press release on the announcements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the new PEPFAR strategy, “reaffirms the US government’s leadership and commitment, through PEPFAR, to support HIV/AIDS efforts in more than 50 countries, ensuring access to services by all populations, including the most vulnerable and at-risk groups.” Implementation of the new strategy will be accelerated in those countries with the highest burden of HIV, but also the greatest potential to control the epidemic by 2020, when working with other partners. A total of 13 countries meet this requirement.
When speaking about the findings in the press release, Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, global director of ICAP, which collects the PHIA data, stated, “The findings from the 6 countries provide a report card on the global and local efforts in confronting the HIV epidemics while at the same time help in shaping a blueprint for their future course as they continue their quest to stem this epidemic. The gaps identified in reaching young women and men are relevant to many other countries around the world, and addressing them is critically important to achieving the ultimate goal of ending this epidemic.”
The gaps Dr. El-Sadr refer to include the findings that, “young women and men under age 35 were less likely to know their HIV status, be on HIV treatment, or be virally suppressed than older adults, according to the press release. As a result, PEPFAR declared that it will continue to target efforts towards those populations, particularly for young women, through their DREAMS Partnership.
Speaking on the new PEPFAR strategy in the press release, Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, MD, US Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy stated, “With 5 African countries approaching control of their HIV epidemics, we have the extraordinary opportunity to change the very course of the HIV pandemic over the next 3 years. We are deeply grateful for Secretary Tillerson’s bold leadership and clear vision in launching this landmark strategy. PEPFAR is poised to deliver on it, showing that what once seemed impossible is now possible.”