The United States has played a role in the fight against the HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis pandemics
It’s remarkable to see the progress the world has made on long-standing pandemics such as HIV / AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria, and America’s Helping Heart and Hand, working with local caregivers, have clearly played an important role in this success.
Take Haiti, for example. When I started working there as the USAID Mission Director in Haiti in 2001, HIV / AIDS was rampant and affecting many more people than it is today. The statistics prove it.
In 2002, HIV / AIDS had double the number of cases it has now. Sadly, more than 11,000 people died of HIV in 2002, while less than 3,000 died in 2019.
In 2020, more than 70 percent of people living with HIV in Haiti were on treatment. This number can and should increase, but the progress already made is significant.
Since that time in Haiti with the USAID mission, I have become the Vice President of Missions with Cross Catholic Outreach (CCO), and I have become acquainted with many young people in Haiti and elsewhere who have been affected by HIV / AIDS and other infectious diseases, but managed to survive and thrive through health care, education and a chance to re-enter society.
Moses is a good example. I met him when he was helped by Maison Arc en Ciel (MAEC), also known as Rainbow House. Moise was orphaned at the age of 11 during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and as an HIV positive child he faced many challenges.
For example, earlier in his life, Moise had moved in with relatives as a restavec (children sent by poor Haitian parents to be domestic workers) and as a result, he was deprived of an education and frequently beaten.
Indeed, in 2013, he had to be hospitalized due to a coma. After his recovery, Moise was referred by the government to Rainbow House, a Haitian nonprofit model for children affected or infected with HIV / AIDS. There the staff encouraged Moses to develop his breeding skills and, aided by vocational training and AIDS treatment, he was able to apply his talents to poultry production and now lives independently.
Given the success of this organization, it is good to see that the Rainbow House has been supported by USAID and CCO, as well as funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Program President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
I think it’s also important that we recognize the leadership of the George W. Bush administration. The annual U.S. investment in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since then, combined with the rapid succession of PEPFAR and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), has created what Bono , the Irish rock star, once called a “1 -2 punch” – an effective and integrative approach to tackling the world’s worst epidemics.
Now the Global Fund is commemorating its 20th anniversary and we must celebrate the benefits it has produced. The Global Fund was launched in 2002 to end the three pandemics responsible for deepening societies in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, among other low-income regions, and there are clear signs that its strategies have paid off. In 20 years of existence, AIDS deaths have fallen by 41 percent, tuberculosis by 25 percent and malaria by 46 percent.
Even when COVID-19 threw a curve ball into the huge momentum it had taken to end these epidemics for good in 2020, the partnership found ways to adapt. For example, the Global Fund quickly developed a COVID-19 response mechanism and found ways to support vital health systems in low-income countries. This has included protecting the essential work of civil society leaders, religious actors and frontline community health workers, supporting care for people vulnerable to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
As Christians, we believe in the dignity and worth of every human being because we know that everyone was created in the image of God, and for this reason, I am proud that my taxes support American investments in the global health, saving precious human lives today. and advancing medical knowledge that can do even more in the future.
I believe our generation – with the United States leading global health financing – will be remembered for turning the tide of deaths from three of the world’s deadliest epidemics and thus changing the course of history.
Incredible gains have been made, but we must persevere. We must strengthen the proven and effective institutions dedicated to the protection of every human life. Ending long-standing pandemics, tackling the current crisis we face, and working with other countries to prepare for new epidemics and inevitable pandemics will depend on it.
David Adams is Vice President of Cross Catholic Outreach Missions in Boca Raton and Pompano Beach.