BOSTON, MASS – What is the value of the numbers of people tested for HIV, if the people who actually have the virus are not being tested? What is the value of the identification of the people who do have the virus, if they do not receive treatment? And what is value of the numbers of patients served by a clinic, if the goal of that service — keeping people living with HIV healthy and less likely to transmit the virus that leads to AIDS — is not met? And what is the cost of accomplishing those goals?
In an opening talk of the last day of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Stefano Bertozzi of the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health noted that the Senate hearing on the nomination of Dr. Deborah Birx to be the next United States Global AIDS Coordinator will take place today. And the questions above, he said are the ones that will need to guide Birx’s leadership of the largest program in history to target a single disease.
He showed projections from a recent blog post by global AIDS response advocacy leaders Chris Collins of amfAR and Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP, showing the declining numbers of new patients who will receive treatment under proposed Obama administration cuts to the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. “We can’t continue to scale up treatment and prevention as we have in the last ten years without continuing to spend more money,” Bertozzi said.
That, he said, is why Birx will need to find answers to the questions above, by looking “at a granular level” where services are provided, at what PEPFAR dollars are buying.