For decades, the United States has been a global leader in fighting infectious diseases and strengthening the health systems of partner states around the world.
Thanks to strong bipartisan support from past administrations and Congress, American investments in global health programs have saved the lives of millions around the world. Global Fund, for example, a public-private partnership “designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics,” has saved over 38 million lives since it was created in 2002. Similarly, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush in 2003, has saved over 25 million lives and built-up pandemic preparedness in 54 countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic made clear that the strength of healthcare systems around the world, and access to them for vulnerable communities, have profound impacts on Americans here at home. These programs are more important than ever but are coming under increasing attack. Likewise, the decline of U.S. leadership within the World Health Organization (WHO)-related international partnerships has been costly and dangerous to our own health security.
U.S. partnerships with local health organizations have been disrupted as a consequence of policies such as the sweeping Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, which forbids international organizations that receive any U.S. global health funding from offering abortion or other reproductive health services—including basic counseling and education. Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has continued, reinstated, or expanded the Global Gag Rule, even though U.S. laws already restrict federal foreign aid funds from paying for “abortion as a method of family planning.” These disruptions affect not only the most vulnerable women in these countries, but everyone.
The number of lives saved under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program since its creation in 2003.
“We are on the verge of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. To abandon our commitment now would forfeit two decades of unimaginable progress and raise further questions about the worth of America’s word.”— George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States Hear this quote in context on the reauthorization of PEPFAR
U.S. leadership on global health is an essential expression of our humanitarian values, promotes stability, solidifies trade relationships, develops goodwill, and combats the influence of our adversaries and competitors. You can encourage this leadership by telling your elected representatives in Congress to reauthorize important programs like PEPFAR and replenish the U.S. $6 billion pledge to the Global Fund. This must also be coupled with greater American support for international efforts to prepare for and respond to pandemics and other global health challenges.