Appointment of Eric Goosby as Global AIDS Coordinator should pave the way to revitalized funding, greater attention to HIV-related tuberculosis, and improved HIV treatment and prevention program integration
NEW YORK, NY—Monday, 27 April 2009
Treatment Action Group (TAG), the nation’s only organization focused exclusively on fighting for better treatments, a cure, and a vaccine for AIDS, today welcomed the Obama administration’s nomination of Dr. Eric Goosby as the next Global AIDS Coordinator in the State Department, which administers the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the world’s largest international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program.
“There is a vital need for strong leadership from President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and—incoming Global AIDS Coordinator Goosby to revitalize the nation’s leading role in the global struggle against AIDS,” said Mark Harrington, TAG’s executive director. “The new Global AIDS Coordinator will confront a hydra-headed array of threats, ranging from the global economic crisis with its threat to the livelihoods of the poor; possible cuts to international assistance programs; a growing backlash against international AIDS prevention and treatment programs; pointless fights about health system strengthening versus priority diseases such as AIDS, TB, and malaria; the need to better coordinate the world’s struggles against HIV and its most common coinfections such as TB and viral hepatitis; and the need to greatly strengthen HIV prevention programs by establishing strong, evidence-based interventions that target sexual, injection-drug related, and perinatal forms of HIV transmission. Most urgent of all is the need for the U.S. government to fully meet its commitments to fund PEPFAR at the authorized level, and to fully fund its share of aid to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.”
Last July, with strong bipartisan support, Congress passed and President Bush signed a sweeping reauthorization of the PEPFAR program that authorizes $48 billion to fight against global AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the next five years. As Global AIDS Coordinator, Dr. Goosby will head this multibillion-dollar, multiyear program that is leading the world in the fight against HIV and AIDS—preventing millions of new infections and saving millions of lives. While President Obama’s appointment of Dr. Goosby is an important step in signaling his administration’s commitment to global health and global AIDS, Dr. Goosby’s job will not be easy. HIV still infects up to five million new people each year, while almost three million die of the disease. Efforts to prevent new infections and to treat those in need of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy, while dramatically improved in the past five years, still lag grievously behind the virus and its deadly toll. In addition, years of harmful policies under the Bush administration that were grounded more in ideology rather than science and evidence prevented potentially bigger gains in fighting the pandemic.
TAG policy director Sue Perez pointed out another new challenge in global health: “It is now more critical than ever for advocates of global health to come together and fight for a resource pie big enough to fully fund health for all, including the fights against HIV, TB, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases, as well as improving women’s and children’s health, providing food security and clean water, and improving the lives of the poor. The U.S. has a critical role to play not only as the biggest donor but potentially as one that can bring together donors and high-burden countries to rally—in spite of the economic crisis and its associated political obstacles—a new common commitment to reverse the toll of AIDS, TB, and malaria while building the infrastructure that will lead to comprehensive and universal access to high quality primary care for all.”
Perez noted the deadly intersection of the HIV and TB pandemics as dramatic proof of the need for better program integration and collaboration: “Just last month, the World Health Organization—relying on better testing data that was a direct result of the PEPFAR and Global Fund scale-up programs for HIV testing among TB patients—revealed that the toll of HIV-related TB disease is more than twice as high as previously believed. An estimated 1.5 million people with HIV develop TB disease each year and almost a quarter of all AIDS deaths are related to TB disease. Yet in far too many countries the two diseases are fought by separate programs, and patients—affected by both killer diseases—often fall ill and die in the gap between the two programs. The new PEPFAR bill offers a chance to improve U.S. coordination between HIV and TB programs, but how this will actually be carried out remains unclear, and should be a priority for the new Global AIDS Coordinator.
“We’re looking forward to working with Dr. Goosby, the Obama administration, and Congress to strengthen the U.S. response to global, as well as domestic, AIDS,” said Mark Harrington. “Now that the leadership is becoming clearer, the hard work begins. There is no time to waste.”
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Treatment Action Group is an independent AIDS research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, a vaccine, and a cure for AIDS. TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV receive lifesaving treatment, care, and information. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions. TAG catalyzes open collective action by all affected communities, scientists, and policy makers to end AIDS.