In 2012 the Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS co-hosted a congressional breakfast forum at the Senate. The goal was to highlight the achievements of the American Government in saving the lives of millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Elton urged the large bi-partisan audience at the forum to continue that support by approving a second 5-year term for U.S. President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief or ‘PEPFAR’ bill (see photo) .
On 17th June 2013, congressional leaders commemorated the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR. To mark the anniversary Elton John has written to all the current leaders to reiterate his gratitude for PEPFAR’s achievements and to urge congress to make the same honorable commitment to the bill when it comes up for re-authorisation this year, in order to complete the goals set out in the PEPFAR blue print.
You can read the letter below:
Dear Congressional Leader,
Commemorating 10 years of PEPFAR support
I am writing today to express my immense gratitude to the United States Congress and Administration/s for joining forces in the global fight against AIDS. Your efforts have not only changed the course of the epidemic but the course of history.
In 2002, I urged the US Senate in testimony to act boldly to bring life-saving AIDS medicine to the millions in need in Africa and around the world. I was overjoyed when President Bush proposed such a plan in his 2003 State of the Union address and when, in less than six months, the Congress passed the most far reaching global heath legislation ever considered – with huge bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. It was neither a Democratic or Republican effort, it was a gift from the American people to individuals and families they did not know and could not see who were in desperate need of help and hope. It was a great day for America, and for us all.
Since then, the good that has been done through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – affectionately known as PEPFAR – was almost unimaginable 10 years ago. Through this decade of US leadership and smart and steady investment in PEPFAR and the Global Fund, you have shown the world that together we can end AIDS.
In 2003, only 50,000 people in Africa had access to AIDS medicines. Today, more than 100 times that number are on treatment, living healthier lives and caring for their children who would have been orphans. And science has now proven that people taking antiviral drugs are also far less likely to pass on the virus – making treatment also prevention.
As a result of this and other well targeted evidence based prevention strategies, we have seen a 50% reduction in the rate of new infections in 25 countries; African AIDS deaths are down by a third, one million babies have been saved through prevention of mother to child transmission and now 13 countries have reached the programmatic ‘tipping point’, getting ahead of their epidemic for the first time ever. PEPFAR has been central to this success.
As we commemorate a decade of PEPFAR progress, and largely because of it and the important work of the Global Fund, we find ourselves with the historic opportunity to create the AIDS free future laid out in the PEPFAR Blueprint; an opportunity that seizes the science and leaves no one behind. We have made great strides, and with sustained and strategic investment, we can finish the job. To that end, I respectfully urge the US Congress to appropriate $1.65 billion for the Global Fund in FY14 as you did in FY13, and to restore the vitally important PEPFAR bilateral program to its FY12 level. These dollars are quite literally translated into lives saved, infections prevented, productive work years increased, children raised and educated, economies improved and strife and discord diminished.
I know that while US leadership and leverage in the global fight against AIDS is unique and indispensable, other governments, corporations, foundations (such as my own), multilateral and faith based institutions, and people from all walks of life must all do their part to end AIDS. Last week I urged my own UK Government to double its Global Fund contribution, providing one billion pounds ($1.57b) over the next three years and hope they will take action. I also commend the governments of South Africa, Namibia and Kenya for increasing their own investments in HIV prevention and treatment and urge other African nations to do the same.
Thank you for your leadership and commitment to this effort. Your investments in PEPFAR and the Global Fund are not just the right thing to do they are the smart thing to do. If we keep marching forward together, we can make AIDS history.
Sir Elton John