Just yesterday, PEPFAR lifted it's restriction on new patient enrollment in Uganda. This crisis was explained on the front page of the New York Times in May. Thanks to your work, HIV+ people in Uganda can get treatment funded by PEPFAR again. But we have to keep up the fight, because this crisis could happen in any number of other countries if the US government doesn't increase funding for global AIDS.
Here's our press statement on the issue:
Health GAP • Uganda Community-Based Association for Child Welfare (UCOBAC) • International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS East Africa (ICW EA) • Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda • National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS Uganda (NACWOLA) • National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU) • Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda • Community Health And Information Network (CHAIN) Uganda • International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) • Together Against AIDS Positive Association Uganda • Great Lakes Media Uganda • International HIV/AIDS Alliance
For Immediate Release: July 29 2010
For more information contact: Asia Russell, Health GAP: +256 776 574 729 or +1 267 475 2645 (Kampala) / email@example.com
Matthew Kavanagh, Health GAP: +1 202 486 2488 (Washington DC) / firstname.lastname@example.org
Following Pressure, White House Announces it is Lifting AIDS Treatment Caps in Uganda
Similar Treatment Access Crises Loom Unless the Obama Administration Keeps its AIDS Funding Promises
(Kampala and Washington DC) Today advocacy organizations in the US and Uganda welcomed the announcement that the U.S. global AIDS program, PEPFAR, has reversed severe restrictions that capped enrollment of new HIV patients on life saving treatment in Uganda, following criticism and outcry from people with HIV, clinicians, advocates, and public health experts in the US, Uganda and around the world.
In a statement by Ambassador Eric Goosby, the Coordinator of PEPFAR, the U.S. government committed to increasing investments of additional resources for HIV treatment in Uganda (see http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/update_pepfar_uganda). Specifically, the White House has pledged to return to the rate of new patient enrollment taking place before treatment caps were put in place--approximately 3,000 new patients each month until 2013. Advocates fear that the treatment caps, in place for almost one year, have already set back the country response to HIV, as a result of HIV treatment waiting lists expanding to crisis levels. This situation followed an instruction by PEPFAR to AIDS treatment providers to cap new HIV treatment enrollment (See October 29, 2009 USG communication to PEPFAR Implementing Partners).
"The White House has responded to criticism and grave concern from people with HIV, activists and other experts," said Asia Russell of Health GAP. "Now partners are picking up the pieces, reconstructing efforts to scale up to reach HIV treatment access for all. There is no time to waste." Advocates urged PEPFAR to implement this new policy as quickly as possible, with minimal bureaucratic delay and with clear guidance to providers about how they can restart new patient recruitment.
Because the White House has recommended virtually no increased funding for PEPFAR for two consecutive years, advocates point out that the crisis in Uganda will be duplicated in multiple additional countries unless the Obama Administration increases its investment of additional funds in PEPFAR. "This announcement means the waiting lists in Uganda will easefor now," said Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP. "But Uganda is just the tip of the iceberg. US officials have rightly said that they are worried there could be more 'Kampala situations' in other countries soon. President Obama and Congress must prevent that, by keeping their AIDS funding promises."
As a Senator and Presidential candidate, President Obama promised publicly and in writing to spend at least $50 billion fighting AIDS over 5 years, as the U.S. 'fair share' response to the pandemic. Instead, U.S. AIDS funding has been virtually flat-lined by the Obama White House and Congress.
Advocates also challenged the Government of Uganda to significantly scale up its investments in HIV treatment. "Our government should commit to its own target of treating an increasing number of HIV positive Ugandans," said Lillian Mworeko, of the International Community of Women Living with HIV East Africa. "Our country could mobilize the resourcesbut we need the political will from our leaders." In 2009, Uganda budgeted 60 billion Ugandan Shillings ($30 million) for antiretroviral and anti-malarial medicines procured from the local manufacturing company Quality Chemicals Limited. But advocates expressed concern at the lack of transparency in the procurement, and higher prices charged by Quality Chemicals relative to other suppliers. "While we appreciate that investment, $30 million is also not enough," Mworeko continued. "We need a commitment from our President to a permanent budgetary allocation for HIV treatment that increases over time."
The advocates called on the White House and Congress to commit to progressive scale up in HIV treatment to reach one third of those people in clinical needas it has already pledged to doeven while leveraging increased commitments from national governments and other donors. "Shifting away from HIV treatment scale up misses the opportunity to save lives," said Dorcas Amoding of Community Health and Information Network Uganda.
"Stepping back from treatment scale up will result in substantial numbers of new infections as evidence shows significant prevention benefits associated with universal HIV treatment coverage," added Agnes Apea of the National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) Uganda. "Moreover it will simply postponeand likely increaseballooning treatment costs, because people will present later, when they are seriously ill and already requiring complex care. An urgent course correction is neededso that communities benefit fully from the direct and indirect benefits of HIV treatment, contributing to reduced rates of new HIV infections, declining HIV prevalence, andpotentiallyan eventual end to the pandemic."
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
• Background material on the human impact of PEPFAR's HIV treatment rationing in Uganda are available in these recent articles: The New York Times: “At Front Lines, AIDS War in Falling Apart”
The Wall Street Journal: “War on AIDS Hangs in Balance as U.S. Curbs Help for Africa”
The Boston Globe “U.S seeks to Rein in AIDS Program”
• Recent on the ground reports from Uganda, before the treatment caps were lifted, are available here.