U.S. Can Draw Lessons From PEPFAR Success To Address Epidemic In Black America

“Thirty years ago, the CDC reported the first cases of HIV/AIDS in New York and Los Angeles,” Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Kwei Quartey writes in the Huffington Post World Blog, noting, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States, and 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV.” He briefly recounts a history of the disease in both the U.S. and Africa, writing, “Initially thought to be a disease of gay white men, AIDS is now a global epidemic.” He continues, “Whatever its origins, HIV/AIDS became a severe epidemic in East Africa in the 1980s,” noting, “The initial response by African governments to the AIDS crisis was inadequate, and in some cases absent.”

“In the past 10 years, the number of new HIV infections has dropped by more than 25 percent in 22 countries in the region, including some with the largest number of cases,” due in part to “PEPFAR and greater availability of [antiretrovirals (ARVs)],” Quartey notes. However, he writes, “While the number of new HIV infections has substantially dropped in sub-Saharan Africa, it has changed very little in the United States, especially in African-American communities.” He continues, “PEPFAR’s goal was to share with the world the best practices established in the United States during the first 20 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” but “as PEPFAR approaches the end of its first decade, the program can now do the reverse: apply best practices from abroad to the United States, particularly in poor, black populations.” He concludes, “Distant Africa may seem to have little relevance to the United States, but now the ‘Dark Continent’ is shining a light on a way out of the worst epidemic in history” (10/13).