AIDS program linked to a drop in rates of infection
In 2003, President George W. Bush approved the implementation of a far-reaching, long-term foreign aid program to help curb the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Africa. Since then, the program has been going strong, and a recent study reveals that it may also be one of the more effective efforts of its kind.
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initially consisted of a five-year, $15 billion commitment. It helped to build healthcare infrastructure in 15 African countries, introducing new drug distribution systems, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories and testing facilities in high-risk regions.
Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine calculated that between 2004 and 2008, there was a 20 percent reduction of AIDS-related deaths in nations where PEPFAR was implemented – amounting to a total of 740,000 lives.
"We were surprised and impressed to find these mortality reductions," said study author Eran Bendavid, M.D. "While many assume that foreign aid works, most evaluations of aid suggest it does not work or even causes harm. Despite all the challenges to making aid work and to implementing HIV treatment in Africa, the benefits of PEPFAR were large and measurable across many African countries."
Moreover, the facilities that were erected as part of PEPFAR were of significance beyond HIV/AIDS detection and treatment. Pregnant women in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania had their babies at the healthcare clinics.
PEPFAR was incorporated into the Global Health Initiative in 2009 to broaden its agenda and further go toward maternal and child health efforts. However, the budget for PEPFAR appears to be slowly decreasing, as it's only been allocated some $6.4 billion for 2013, compared to its all-time high of $6.8 billion in 2010.