EPPN Global Health Series: HIV/AIDS
By: Patricia Kisare
“I believe that we in the religious communities have a unique ministry in that we are the popular, public and identified repositories of ethical, moral, and prophetic witness. People want to know what we think about this disease and what we see as a faithful response.” – Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning, from ENS report on the Atlanta Declaration (1989)
A lot has changed about HIV/AIDS since the initial reporting of cases in 1981. In the early days of this global epidemic, acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was a death sentence. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 32 million have died from AIDS-related illness (UNAIDS). Over the last 20 years, however, the international community has mobilized and invested in scientific research, development of affordable antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, and better policies to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS globally. These efforts have led to a reduction in new infections and a better quality of life for people living with HIV. Today, the life expectancy of people living with HIV has improved tremendously because of the availability of antiretroviral treatments.
Faith-based institutions have played a major role in the global response to HIV/AIDS. The General Convention passed its first resolution on AIDS in 1985, four years after the condition was first discovered in the U.S. There have been over fifty resolutions on the issue since then, an illustration of the church’s concern and commitment to pursue justice and establish ministries to provide care to people affected by HIV/AIDS. Our church leaders were instrumental in both raising awareness in the church and seeking resources from the U.S. government to help mitigate the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS globally. The Office of Government Relations has been part of the advocacy community that has shaped U.S. HIV/AIDS policy strategies for many years, and we continue to do so today.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains one of the most serious global health threats today. At the end of 2018, there were approximately 38 million people living with HIV, 1.7 million new infections, and about 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illness. Of the nearly 38 million people living with HIV, only 25 million were able to access antiretroviral medication, leaving another 13 million people without access to these life-saving treatments (UNAIDS).
In response to increased mortality rates from AIDS-related illness and other infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis and Malaria, the international community–including the U.S. government–launched the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in 2002. This public-private financing organization works with low- and middle-income countries to fight these three infectious diseases. Furthermore, in 2003 President George W. Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a bilateral U.S. government effort to combat HIV/AIDS globally. Together, PEPFAR and the Global Fund work with heavily affected countries to ensure the availability of financial and technical resources as they work to prevent HIV transmissions and provide treatment to people living with HIV. These two programs have been vital in the global fight against HIV/AIDS; it is therefore critical to ensure they continue to be funded so that this life-saving work can continue. While these programs have historically enjoyed bipartisan support, we are concerned about potential U.S. disengagement.
The Office of Government Relations continues to advocate to members of Congress every year urging support for robust funding of PEPFAR and the Global Fund, including ensuring that the U.S. government follows through on its pledge to replenish the Global Fund. Not only do we need to maintain current HIV/AIDS programs, but the international community must also work together to scale up treatment services to ensure everyone living with HIV can access antiretroviral therapy (ARTs). In addition to improving life expectancy, research has shown that taking ARTs as prescribed decreases the chances of sexual transmission of HIV.
General Convention Resolutions
- 1985-D062: Recognize and Respond to the Tragedy of the AIDS Crisis
- 1994-A005: Reaffirm Support for a Public Policy on the AIDS/HIV Pandemic
- 2000-A051: Support Initiatives to Make Available AIDS-related Medications
- 2003-D054: Keep America’s “Promise to Africa”
- 2009-A159: Urge the Church to Address HIV/AIDS Prevention
- A Conversation on faith action to end AIDS
- 2019 Global AIDS Update
- 2019 PEPFAR Annual Report
- PEPFAR data
Continue the Series
The Office of Government Relations