If today’s hearing was any indication, Dr. Eric Goosby is headed for an easy confirmation to be U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Dr. Goobsy’s time in the hot seat, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lasted all of 30 minutes this afternoon, and he wasn’t thrown any hardballs.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Goosby talked about working in the HIV/AIDS field from the early days “where death was a daily event, to times of hope” where treatment has saved millions of lives. If confirmed, he said he would be guided by a set of key principles, from an intensified focus on HIV prevention to strengthening health systems. The latter is of course a key concern for the new administration and vital to PEPFAR’s success in winning hearts and minds in Washington these days.
Dr. Goosby also said that PEPFAR has demonstrated what happens “when we dare to think big” and promised to continue that visionary streak if confirmed.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who chaired the session, asked several questions about health-system strengthening, including how Dr. Goosby would leverage PEPFAR to bolster local health infrastructure. Dr. Goosby said PEPFAR should be “used as a platform to extend medical services” to cover a wider net of diseases and broader population.
In response to a question about health care worker training from Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Dr. Goosby acknowledged the challenges in recruiting and retaining new health professionals. But he said PEPFAR’s efforts should focus on partnering with developing-country academic institutions. “We need to create the capability on the continent and not export it,” Dr. Goosby said.
If anyone expected fireworks, they were likely disappointed. There was little mention of funding—a vital concern among global AIDS advocates at the moment, as Congress considers the Obama administration’s modest proposal to increase PEPFAR’s budget by $100 million in FY 2010.
Feingold wrapped up the hearing after only one round of questions from the two senators in attendance—himself and Lugar—and said he looked forward to “prompt consideration” of Dr. Goosby’s nomination.