This article is part of a series on global AIDS issues to be published
by RH Reality Check throughout December. It is drawn from a report
co-produced by amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and
The Center for Global Health Policy of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
A full copy of the report including all tables,
graphs and references cited can be found here. Other articles in the series can be found by searching “global AIDS 2009” on RH Reality Check.
The response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic has transformed global health financing and programming, demonstrating the potential to make substantial progress against diseases in low- and middle-income countries and placing a new emphasis on accountability, public engagement, and the health needs of the most vulnerable populations.
There are indications that the U.S. government is considering a significant slowing in the scale-up of global AIDS programming in 2010 and beyond. Such a slowdown would have serious negative impacts on both the global response to the AIDS epidemic and broader efforts to advance global health.
Instead of pulling back, U.S. policy makers should leverage the achievements of the AIDS response, continue the accelerated scale-up of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and use these efforts as a foundation on which to build broader and more sustainable healthcare capacity in low- and middle-income countries. Such strategies capitalize fully on
global health investments made over the last several years.
Over the last decade the U.S. commitment to global HIV/AIDS initiatives has grown markedly.
The Response to the AIDS Pandemic to Date
Over the last decade the
U.S. commitment to global HIV/AIDS initiatives has grown
markedly. Funding for PEPFAR [The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which includes all bilateral funding for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), and U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria], has risen from $2.3 billion in FY 2004 to more than $6.6 billion in FY 2009. Among all sources worldwide, available funding to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic has grown from an estimated $2.1 billion in 2001 to $15.6 billion in 2008.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has documented many positive outcomes from these investments, including dramatically expanded coverage of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) among children and adults, from 5 percent of those in need in 2003 to 42 percent in 2008.
Many of the investments made in HIV/AIDS programs have also yielded important outcomes well beyond HIV and AIDS. There are preliminary but clear indications that investments in HIV/AIDS programs are demonstrating sustainable positive
results—establishing new healthcare infrastructure and
catalyzing policy change—that hold promise for improving healthcare for millions.
The HIV/AIDS response is beginning to reverse the overall trend in mortality
- A study of Ugandan adults found a 95% reduction in mortality in HIV-infected
individuals after 16 weeks of combination treatment with ART and co-trimoxazole, an 81% reduction in mortality in their
uninfected children younger than 10, and an estimated 93%
reduction in orphanhood.
- In Brazil, ART has led to a 40–70 percent decrease in mortality, a 60–80 percent decrease in morbidity, an 85 percent decrease in hospitalization of people living with HIV/AIDS, and savings of $1.2 billion in healthcare costs.
- Through the implementation of HIV/AIDS programs, in Botswana infant mortality rates have dropped and life expectancy has increased for the first time in many years.
The AIDS response directly benefits the treatment and prevention of other diseases.
The AIDS response
directly benefits the treatment and prevention of other
- ART was associated with a 75 percent decline in the incidence of malaria in a study conducted among HIV-positive patients in Uganda.
- Distribution of insecticide-treated nets has been incorporated into comprehensive care strategies for HIV-positive people in many malaria-endemic areas. A qualitative study conducted in HIV-affected households in Rakai, Uganda, reports excellent retention and appropriate use of nets distributed as a part of a PEPFAR-supported community-based outpatient HIV care program.
- HIV program implementers have begun to integrate TB diagnosis into HIV treatment and
care. In one Rwanda program, for example, HIV-positive patients are
now routinely screened for TB. In Uganda, integrated HIV
and TB care at nearly 90 clinics helped achieve a doubling of the
TB assessment rate for ART patients over two years.
- In a study of a South African community with high prevalence of HIV and an established TB
program, there was a significan correlation between the
rollout of ART and a decline (more than 75 percent) in annual TB
notifications among people receiving ART.
The AIDS response is
strengthening health services and primary care
in many settings:
The global response to
HIV/AIDS has helped develop health infrastructure and
general health systems in many settings. Nearly one-third (32%) of
PEPFAR investments are directed towards strengthening health
systems through programs to build human ca-pacity, provide technical
assistance, create laboratory infrastructure, enhance supply chain
management, and strengthen monitoring and evaluation systems.
The Global Fund is also a
major contributor to health system strengthening. Approximately 35% of Global Fund
resources are used to that end,
providing invaluable support for human resources, training, and
infrastructure and equipment. In addition to providing
many health systems benefits, scale-up of AIDS services has also
revealed fragilities in health systems that existed before the
AIDS epidemic.33 In some cases, expanded financing for HIV/AIDS
services has placed additional burdens on healthcare workers and
health systems struggling to deliver HIV-related and other
Still, AIDS programming
offers a blueprint for advancing primary care in
resource-limited countries. A
chronic disease characterized by periods
of illness and periods of health, HIV/AIDS impacts patients and
their families throughout their lives.
The response to AIDS has
led to a patient-centered, holistic model of care, with high levels
of patient engagement and a range of supportive services to
promote retention in care and adherence to medications.
Delivery of HIV/AIDS treatment has also led to the strengthening of systems to ensure continuity of care that can be replicated to help treat other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness, and to help tackle problems such as malnutrition and gender and social inequality.
A study in rural Haiti found that delivery of integrated HIV/AIDS treatment and
prevention helped achieve a number of primary health goals,
including expanded vaccination, family planning, TB case
finding and treatment, and health promotion. The study also showed improved staff
morale and enhanced confidence
in public health and medicine.
- A study of PEPFAR-supported sites in Rwanda found that offering comprehensive
HIV services led to fundamental improvements at public
health centers, including training laboratory technicians
and nurses, providing medical supplies and equipment,
and renovating laboratories and clinics.
- Since the start of PEPFAR, improvements in the safety andadequacy of blood
supplies have been made in 14 countries with high prevalence of
HIV infection. By 2007, national policies on blood supply
safety had been established in 12 PEPFAR countries and
were in development in the two remaining countries.
- In Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda and Guyana, PEPFAR-funded programs have used
financial and other incentives such as special
allowances for housing, transportation, hardship, and education
to promote improved distribution of health workers in
rural and remote areas.
- As HIV treatment programs have been implemented, hospital admissions have
declined dramatically and hospital beds have been freed up
in many communities hit hard by the epidemic.44
For example, after ART was introduced in Botswana, the percentage
of hospital beds occupied by people living with
HIV/AIDS fell from 93 percent to 52 percent in one location.
The AIDS response can
help address the global health workforce crisis
The AIDS epidemic has
ravaged the healthcare workforce in the developing world. For example, in Lesotho and Malawi, the single greatest cause of
health worker attrition is death from HIV/AIDS. ART roll-out has saved the lives of thousands of healthcare workers,
allowing them to continue providing care.
The World Health
Organization estimates that more than four million healthcare
workers are needed to fill the deficit of doctors, nurses, and
other professionals who form the backbone of the healthcare system.
The situation is most dire in sub-Saharan Africa, which has
11% of the world’s population but 24% of the global burden
of disease and only 3% of the world’s health workers.
The AIDS response has had
a mixed impact on the health worker crisis. For
example, global AIDS initiatives have been associated with some
migration of healthcare workers away from the public sector.
But in many instances, HIV programs have helped to strengthen
healthcare workforce retention by providing new training
opportunities, better working conditions, and other support for
many healthcare workers, such as special
allowances for housing, transportation, hardship, and education
to promote improved distribution of health workers in
rural and remote areas.
In fiscal year 2008, PEPFAR spent approximately $310 million to support training
activities; from 2004 to 2008, the program supported an estimated
3.7 million training and retraining encounters for healthcare
- The AIDS response has inspired “task-shifting” and other innovative solutions to
the workforce crisis, freeing up doctors and nurses to attend to
critical patient needs while cultivating a cadre of engaged
community health workers.1 One study in Rwanda demonstrated that
task-shifting the administration of ART reduced demands on
doctors’ time by 76% over a two-year period.
- PEPFAR has highlighted the dearth of health professionals in Africa and mounted a
strong response, from training and task-shifting initiatives
to a new mandate, included in the 2008 reauthorization of
PEPFAR, that calls for the training of 140,000 new healthcare
workers in 15 target countries by 2014. This and other efforts to address the
workforce crisis will only be realized
with adequate funding.
The AIDS response is
strengthening government and program
PEPFAR, the Global Fund,
and other HIV/AIDS programs are focused on demonstrating
tangible results based on clear objectives and
accountability measures. This outcomes-driven orientation has been key
to the programs’ success and has helped cultivate similar
performance-based models in other health initiatives.
Indeed the Commission on Smart Global Health Policy at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies has recommended that
PEPFAR-created platforms be the basis for extending more effective
measurement frameworks into other priority health areas.49
From its inception, PEPFAR has set specific targets for delivering AIDS treatment,
reducing rates of HIV infection, and meeting the care needs of
millions of adults, orphans, and vulnerable children.
PEPFAR’s ambitious targets have helped drive planners and
providers to focus on results and have led to the development of new
monitoring and evaluation systems.
- Performance-based financing, a founding priniciple of the Global Fund, has created
a variety of mechanisms to ensure accountability, including
key performance indicators on all grants.
Grant recipients are held accountable for specific targets throughout the
life of the grant.
Principles for Moving Forward
for new areas of investment while building on achievements
to date, including HIV/AIDS programs.
The intensive response to
HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR has demonstrated the profound
impact that can be achieved when programs have sufficient
resources and are focused on achieving specific outcomes. The most deadly diseases, such as AIDS, malaria, and TB, will
continue to need dedicated programming even as more funds are
invested in general health systems and other health needs. Disease-specific programs, including
those for HIV/AIDS, will
continue to play a critical role in strengthening overall health systems
and advancing the response to other diseases.
While increasing efforts
to strengthen overall healthcare systems, ensure that
these systems meet the health needs of vulnerable
Women and girls, gay men
and other men who have sex with men, transgender people,
injection drug users, migrant workers, sex workers, and other
socially marginalized groups are often at elevated risk for HIV and
other health concerns. These
groups are also often
marginalized in their societies, have limited or no access to health
services, and are in some cases not even counted in health statistics. Strengthened health systems can only be effective at addressing a
community’s health needs if they are able to serve those who are most vulnerable.
Use PEPFAR programming as
a foundation for broader health service
PEPFAR is evolving from
an emergency relief effort to a comprehensive system for
implementing health interventions in partnership with
countries. It has worked with
countries to develop five-year
strategies, partner implementation plans, and effective approaches
to fund management, metrics, and evaluation. These core
processes, already well established in many countries, can be
used as a foundation for addressing a range of health needs.
Expand PEPFAR’s new health system strengthening framework to address the
other priorities in the President’s Global Health Initiative,
including child and maternal health.
- Expand the PEPFAR New Partners Initiative
that seeks to enhance the capacity
of NGO, faith-based, and other community efforts to
improve civil society engagement in addressing health needs.
- Create incentives for different health service delivery networks, including
PEPFAR, TB control programs, and Neglected Tropical
Disease service sites to work collaboratively to
maximize cost-effective, high-quality delivery of multiple
- Ensure vulnerable populations at highest risk (including MSM, sex workers, and
injection drug users) receive services that meet their
needs as PEPFAR moves to build country capacity.
- Ensure that healthcare professionals trained under PEPFAR also receive clinical
training and mentorship on other relevant infectious
diseases and primary healthcare delivery, including training that
addresses stigma, discrimination, and mistreatment of
marginalized and vulnerable populations.
- Strengthen and expand laboratory capacity in countries to respond to diagnostic and
clinical monitoring needs in TB, malaria, maternal and
child health, and family planning.
- Ensure the provision of healthcare for women living with or at risk for HIV
infection by integrating family planning services with HIV care
delivery and scaling up the provision of HIV counseling and
testing at family planning sites.
- Prioritize the development of integrated systems of screening and care for
HIV and TB to reduce morbidity and mortality in co-infected
Bring HIV/AIDS and other
global health services to scale
- Fund PEPFAR at the levels authorized by Congress through the Lantos-Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Reauthorization Act of 2008.
- Provide significantly increased resources through the Global Fund and other programs
to ensure the Administration’s Global Health Initiative
broadens the U.S. approach to global health while
maintaining the commitment to scale up the response to HIV/AIDS,
TB, and malaria.
- Launch a coordinated operations research agenda across federal agencies to identify the best models for integrating HIV/AIDS programs and other health services.
- Coordinate efforts across federal agencies to ensure research findings relevant to the Global Health Initiative are implemented in developing country settings as quickly as possible.
- Support the development of local generic ARV production capacity in Africa and
craft strategies to drive down the cost of second- and third-line
As the Obama
administration and Congress develop and implement a new Global
Health Initiative, it will be essential to determine the most
strategic approaches and best opportunities for
achieving broad global health goals across a range of diseases and conditions. Evidence to date
indicates that resources committed
to addressing HIV/AIDS can in many cases be leveraged to
strengthen comprehensive healthcare in low- and middle-income