Press Release: Leading international AIDS experts call on US Congress to re-authorize PEPFAR

11 September 2023

Leading international AIDS experts call on US Congress to re-authorize PEPFAR

Leading AIDS scientists, including Nobel laureates, joined the clarion call urging members of the US Congress to support the continuation of U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), without new politically-motivated abortion-related restrictions.

PEPFAR is the largest commitment in history by any single country to address a disease. Itis set to expire on 30 September 2023, and Republican politicians in the US Congress have stalled its re-authorization for another 5 five years.

In their Perspective article entitled, “Threatening the Global AIDS Response — Obstacles to PEPFAR’s Reauthorization,” published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on 9 September, the scientists express their deep concern that this stellar international AIDS program is being “held hostage to abortion policies that are only distantly related, if at all, tothe primary goals of the PEPFAR program.” The lawmakers stalling the reauthorization areseeking to impose on PEPFAR a prohibition on the disbursement of US government funding to agencies and non-governmental organizations in PEPFAR-supported 55 countries if these organizations provide, promote, or make referrals to abortion services or give information about abortions, even if they use funding from sources other than the U.S. government to do so.

“Compromising PEPFAR at this time could have dire consequences”, says Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Columbia University Professor of Global Health and Director of CAPRISA, an AIDS research center in South Africa. “We could see a substantial increase in new HIV infections and AIDS deaths, with a big concern that treatment interruptions may lead to drugresistant forms of HIV spreading across the world. The Covid pandemic showed how the world is interconnected and that no country would be spared a resurgent HIV epidemic.”

Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, recipient of a Nobel prize for discovering HIV, pointed out, “PEPFAR is an essential global AIDS treatment and prevention program that has played an important role in recipient countries supporting their Covid-19 response. Continued support for PEPFAR is essential to help countries prepare for the next pandemic.” PEPFAR builds and supports surveillance and health care services for HIV prevention and care that are critical to pandemic responses.

Professor Harold Varmus, Nobel-prize recipient for his discovery of cancer genes and past-Director of the US National Institutes of Health, said, “PEPFAR is among the most significant and successful public health programs in history; the proposed suspension would cost many lives, damage health systems, and undermine America’s reputation around the world.”

These three scientists, together with Professors David Serwadda of Uganda, Elizabeth Bukusi of Kenya, Souleymane M’boup of Senegal, Adeeba Kamarulzaman of Malaysia, Soumya Swaminathan of India, and Jean W. Pape of Haiti, called on the US Congress tosupport PEPFAR 5-year strategy of building a sustainable global HIV/AIDS response bystrengthening public health systems, partnerships, innovation, and the ability of countries to respond to other pandemic threats. They contend that “PEPFAR’s 5-year reauthorization is critical not only to the global AIDS response but also to responses to future pandemics andthreats to global security.”

For additional information, contact:

Smita Maharaj, Communications Manager: CAPRISA

Cell: +27-82-8069931 Email:

Authors who are available for comment:

Salim S Abdool Karim Cell: +27-82-7769705

Harold E. Varmus

David Serwadda Cell: +256-772-768-089