Will McKitterick, a research assistant with the Center for Global Development (CGD), in this “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog post summarizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request.” The nine hours of hearings “ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy,” McKitterick writes, adding, “Congressional leaders seemed alarmed by reductions in global health spending and raised specific concerns over the administration’s ability to meet its commitments to its PEPFAR goal of placing six million people on life-sustaining treatment by 2013. Secretary Clinton assured the committees that cuts would be balanced by consolidating programs, finding efficiencies, improving partners’ capacity, and shifting more responsibilities to host countries” (3/2).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports on a panel discussion hosted on Wednesday by the Consensus for Development Reform and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network in Washington, D.C. “Foreign assistance experts discuss[ed] the George W. Bush administration’s legacy on global development, focusing on lessons learned and applying them to the next decade and beyond,” and a central theme was the engagement of the private sector, the blog writes. Panelists highlighted the Millennium Challenge Corporation and PEPFAR, according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/29).
“The health status of women is linked to their fundamental freedoms and empowerment,” Susan Blumenthal, public health editor at the Huffington Post and former U.S. assistant surgeon general, and Jean Guo, a health policy intern at the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress, write in the website’s “Healthy Living” blog in a post marking International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Thursday. “With 3.4 billion women worldwide, women’s health is a global issue today. Yet, societal and environmental factors including poverty, discrimination, and violence are undermining the advancement of women’s health,” they write.
“For the past two weeks, the buzz in Washington, D.C., and at the White House is all about women and girls,” Roxana Rogers, director of the USAID Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in this “IMPACTblog” post. She highlights a recently announced initiative, funded through PEPFAR, “to help local communities and grassroots organizations fight HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence [GBV].” Rogers continues, “Partnerships between U.S. agencies, civil society, private corporations, and international institutions are key to tackling these issues,” and describes several USAID-supported programs working to address HIV/AIDS and GBV (3/15).
In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,’” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”
During a live webcast discussing recent changes at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, “[p]anelists discussed the fund’s new strategy and what this strategy means for the global fight against these three diseases,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted the Global Fund’s new general manager, Gabriel Jaramillo, had moved quickly in focusing on restructuring and realigning the fund, according to the blog. Todd Summers, independent consultant and chair of the Strategy, Investment & Impact Committee at the Global Fund, said, “Now we see lots of opportunity to really make a big difference and change forever the trajectory” of the epidemics, “Global Pulse” notes.
“More than 100 million condoms will be distributed annually to sex workers, men who have sex with men, and other groups vulnerable to HIV as part of a new five-year program to be run by the Ethiopian government and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),” PlusNews reports. “Dubbed MULU, the Amharic word for comprehensive, the $70 million program — implemented by the NGOs Population Services International and World Learning — will also target day laborers in the booming construction industry, migrant workers and their partners,” the news service notes.
“Government assurances that the scaling back of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program in South Africa (SA) will be carefully managed to protect patients are welcome, but … [t]he reality is that the Department of Health is struggling to cope with severe medical staff shortages, financial resources that never seem to stretch far enough, inadequate infrastructure and maintenance programs, and administrative bottlenecks,” a Business Day editorial states. Though the reworking of PEPFAR funding will take place over five years “and does not entail the complete loss” of funding, “the shortfall will have to come from somewhere,” the editorial says, adding, “It will be tragic if, just as we are starting to see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in SA, the gains of the past few years were to be reversed due to the loss of critical foreign funding and the government’s lack of capacity to plug the gap.”
“The United States should be more selective about where and how it spends foreign assistance,” according to a new report (.pdf), titled “Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget,” co-authored by John Norris of the Center for American Progress and Connie Veillette of the Center for Global Development (CGD), the CGD website notes. The report “identifies four flagship reforms that would help U.S. foreign affairs institutions to better reflect national interests and reduce ineffective spending,” including “[a]ccelerat[ing] cost-sharing arrangements with upper middle income recipients of” PEPFAR and “[o]verhaul[ing] U.S. food aid laws and regulations,” according to the website (5/8).
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).