More than 18 million lives have been saved thanks to a global AIDS relief initiative, new data show.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to do “what many people thought was impossible just 10 years ago,” Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, the head of the program, said November 25.
PEPFAR remains the largest commitment ever made by a nation to address a single disease. “The progress is quite remarkable,” Birx said at a press conference in the State Department.
PEPFAR was created in 2003 to deliver medical services to countries most impacted by HIV/AIDS — one of the largest pandemics in the world’s history.
Countries around the globe, including Cambodia, Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Rwanda and others, are getting control of their pandemic, she said.
PEPFAR’s community-based approach to ending HIV/AIDS extends to creating a better world for women and girls through a program called DREAMS, which focuses on education and community involvement.
DREAMS is an acronym for the type of women the program hopes to develop: determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free, mentored and safe.
For the first time, PEPFAR reported that all 86 districts covered by the DREAMS program have seen a decline in HIV infections in just three years. And nearly all DREAMS regions have had a 25 percent or greater decline in new HIV diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women, PEPFAR data show.
This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Controlling the epidemic, community by community,” Birx said. “I think that really gives voice to why we are making the progress we are.”