The George W. Bush Institute is urging Congress to continue funding a global HIV/AIDS program that has been credited with saving millions of lives. Billions of dollars for the program are currently in a state of uncertainty.
The former Republican president’s institute issued a plea to Congress on Wednesday, urging them to continue funding the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, this program supplies medication for HIV/AIDS to millions globally, as well as supporting orphanages and health systems worldwide.
The institute, along with global leaders and humanitarian groups, stated in their letter that the program is one of the most successful in international development since World War II. They expressed concern that abruptly abandoning it would send a negative message, implying that we are no longer capable of putting aside our political differences for the benefit of democracies and the world.
The program, established two decades ago, has consistently received support from both sides of the political spectrum. However, it has recently become a topic of contention as a few Republicans are leading the charge against PEPFAR due to its collaboration with abortion-providing organizations.
At the beginning of this year, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, a member of the Republican party, who has been a long-standing supporter of PEPFAR, stated that he will not proceed with the reauthorization of PEPFAR unless organizations that advocate or offer abortion services are prohibited from receiving funding. Smith is in charge of the subcommittee that oversees the program’s finances.
Despite abortion being a major factor in the delay of PEPFAR’s funding, the Global AIDS Coordinator of the Biden administration stated that he was not aware of any instances where funds were allocated for abortion services.
PEPFAR is credited with saving 25 million lives in 55 countries, including 5.5 million infants born HIV-free. It was created by then-President George W. Bush and Congress to extend treatment for the AIDS epidemic, which has killed more than 40 million people since 1981, to hard-hit areas of Africa where the cost of treatment put it out of reach.
According to a study published in The Lancet medical journal, the implementation of HIV medication through PEPFAR in 2004 led to a peak of 1.6 million newly orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa due to AIDS. However, in 2021, the number of new orphans had significantly decreased to 382,000. Additionally, the number of deaths among infants and young children from AIDS in the region has decreased by 80%.
Former President Bush, a staunch opponent of abortion who advocated for stricter laws during his tenure, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post urging Congress to maintain funding for the program.
The renewal process is delayed due to concerns about the current administration’s stance on pro-life issues in regards to PEPFAR’s execution. However, there is no program that aligns more with pro-life values than one that has successfully saved over 25 million lives.