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20 years on: How PEPFAR brought hope in Africa’s fight against HIV/Aids

Dr John Nkengasong. Andre Pain

Dr John Nkengasong.
Andre Pain

It’s been 20 years since the United States launched its global fight against HIV/AIDS, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), under the George Bush administration.

The project has been phenomenal in fighting the scourge in Africa, a continent more severely affected by HIV with a record estimated 30 million deaths since 1982, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures.

The adult rate of infection in Africa in late 2005 was 6.1%, compared with 1% worldwide, but had dropped to 5% by 2007, compared to 8% worldwide.

Dr John Nkengasong, US Global Aids coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the US State Department, talking to African journalists, said PEPFAR brought hope to people who had lost hope in Africa.

“I think it represents three things: one is hope; the second is impact; and third is a partnership, the power of partnerships. I start there because PEPFAR has transformed the trajectory of HIV/Aids on the continent of Africa in a dramatic way.

“For those of us who have been in the field of HIV/Aids for many, many years – I joined the field of HIV/Aids in 1988 – and before PEPFAR was announced on 29 January 2003, there was a total sense of helplessness across the continent,” he said.