by Reverend Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita and Ambassador for The Wesleyan Church, Indianapolis
It wasn’t that long ago that HIV/AIDS headlines flooded the news. In the 1990s, new HIV infections spiked to 3 million a year, with nearly 2 million AIDS-related deaths annually.
President George W. Bush established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 and helped launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. With these high-impact humanitarian assistance programs, we’ve seen half as many AIDS-related deaths since 2005.
In 2004 I visited Zambia, where hopelessness hung like a dark heavy blanket. AIDS orphans far outnumbered adults and funerals were never ending. But hope soon began to rise thanks to PEPFAR, the Global Fund and antiretroviral drugs.
However, the investments that generated so much progress in the early years are starting to plateau. A whole generation that grew up HIV-negative, thanks to U.S.-funded treatments preventing mother to child HIV transmission, is now at high risk again as teenagers. Every four minutes, three girls become infected with HIV.
The good news is that 2019 is a unique opportunity for the U.S. and other nations to pledge their commitment to the Global Fund. The Global Fund needs at least $14 billion over three years from donors around the world to save 16 million lives, cut the mortality rate for AIDS, TB and malaria in half and avert 234 million new infections by 2023.
I’m proud of Indiana Sen. Todd Young for urging the administration to fully fund the International Affairs Budget. Likewise in the House, Rep. Susan Brooks has championed epidemic preparedness. Now is the time for Young and Brooks to step up the fight and make sure the U.S. contributes $1.56 billion a year to the Global Fund.
Every life is precious, and I believe we have a moral responsibility to save every life we can.