Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” reports on reaction to an announcement by the Obama administration on July 3 that the Global Health Initiative (GHI) office will close and that the office’s work is being “elevated” to the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. “The Obama administration quietly announced … that it is scrapping the office of the Global Health Initiative and abandoning plans to move the whole project over to USAID, creating anger and frustration in the non-government organization community,” the blog writes, adding, “The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), an umbrella group representing development organizations co-chaired by David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe, today issued a harsh criticism of the administration’s decision.”
US Global Health Policy
The State Department’s “Conversations with America” series will soon feature for on-demand viewing a discussion titled “Global Health in Transition.” Lois Quam, executive director of the Global Health Initiative, Jennifer Kates, vice president and director for Global Health and HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, will discuss the topic with Cheryl Benton, deputy assistant secretary of State for public affairs, acting as moderator. The public is invited to submit questions for consideration by July 11 on DipNote, and join the ongoing discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #GlobalHealth (7/9).
In a joint message released by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, and Global Health Initiative (GHI) Executive Director Lois Quam last Tuesday, the Obama administration announced the closure of the GHI office, writing that the office’s work is being “elevated” to the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. The following are summaries of three blog posts published on Monday in response to this announcement.
“Activists are reigniting their attacks against President Obama’s record on battling AIDS ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Washington later this month,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “Two weeks before the conference of 20,000 leading researchers, patients and advocates, the administration has yet to confirm Obama’s attendance,” the blog writes, noting “the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in a teleconference with reporters on Monday said Obama shouldn’t bother showing up unless he’s going to pledge a renewed commitment to the international fight against AIDS.” In 2009, Obama lifted a ban that prevented people living with HIV to enter the U.S., allowing the conference to be held in the country for the first time in 22 years, the blog notes.
With the closure of the Global Health Initiative office and the establishment of the Office of Global Health Diplomacy within the State Department last week, “[t]he Obama administration made some quiet changes … that strengthen one of its most significant policy shifts: that global health and foreign assistance are critical components of diplomacy,” Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. The new office “will implement the principles of the Global Health Initiative that make economic and humanitarian sense, namely a woman-centered approach, country ownership, and health sector integration,” she writes, adding, “The GHI’s principles have the potential to make real progress against the world’s greatest health challenges, and we have to pay meticulous attention to ensuring they are put into action.”
Noting the 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.
In this post on the State Department’s DipNote blog, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten discusses the June 26 signing of the Partnership Framework to support Haiti’s Health Strategy between the Government of Haiti (GOH) and the U.S. Government (USG). “The purpose of this Partnership Framework is to refocus the cooperation between the USG and GOH, and their respective partners, to support Haiti’s efforts to improve its health system and to reach the Millennium Development Goals, including promoting maternal and child health, and reinforcing the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases,” he states, noting that the “signing of this agreement illustrates that the USG has established a new way of working with the GOH on health issues, as the Haitian government begins to take greater ownership of its health program” (7/5).
Obama Administration Announces GHI Office Closure, Says Work Will Move To Office Of Global Diplomacy
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced the closure of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) office, and GHI Executive Director Lois Quam told GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog in an interview that the office’s work is being “elevated” to the State Department’s Office of Global Diplomacy, a move that “lifts up the GHI to the highest levels of diplomacy in the U.S. government,” she said (Donnelly, 7/3). In a joint message released on Tuesday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, and Quam provided an update on the next phase of GHI, saying, “At the State Department, the GHI Office (S/GHI) will close and the Office of Global Health Diplomacy (S/GHD) will be stood up.” According to the joint statement, GHI “will continue as the priority global health initiative of the U.S. Government” and “will continue to function with a collaborative leadership structure headed by the three core entities — USAID, CDC, OGAC — and with the enduring mandate of ensuring the GHI principles are implemented in the field to achieve our ambitious GHI goals” (7/3).
Noting “the United States wants to accelerate the pace of male circumcisions to support 4.7 million procedures in the developing world by the end of next year, up from one million at the beginning of this year,” GlobalPost, as part of its AIDS Turning Point special report, examines the adult male circumcision campaign in Swaziland. “Based on evidence from other African countries that female-to-male transmission of the virus can be reduced by 60 percent if men are circumcised, PEPFAR last year added an additional $15.5 million in funding for an ambitious ‘accelerated saturation initiative’ to circumcise 80 percent of HIV-negative men between ages 15 and 49” in Swaziland, GlobalPost notes, adding, “A year later, 23 percent had undergone the procedure.”
The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator last week published a fact sheet on the U.S. government’s global health work in Haiti. The fact sheet discusses the U.S. strategy and accomplishments in providing health services in the country, as well as challenges being faced (6/28).