Signers from 28 organizations advocating for global HIV responses called on United States Senators Robert Menendez and Robert Corker to schedule a confirmation hearing in the next week for Dr. Deborah Birx, nominated by the White House last month to serve as the next U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and lead the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. The position to lead the U.S. flagship humanitarian program, and the largest effort internationally dedicated to combating a single disease, has stood vacant since early November, when Ambassador Eric Goosby stepped down from the post he had held for the previous five and half years. Before Dr. Goosby assumed the position in June 2009, the leadership spot had remained open for nine months, four of them following President Obama’s nomination of him.
Sen. Menendez, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Corker, the committee’s ranking Republican introduced the 2013 PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act last September. The Act, which renewed authorizaton for PEPFAR funding for the next five years, was voted unanimously into law by the House and the Senate in November. In their letter, sent today, signers express concern that efforts to implement the PEPFAR Act’s provisions, to accelerate HIV treatment access efforts, and coordinate the program’s work for greater efficiency will stall without a leader. Organizations signing the letter include American Jewish World Services, AVAC, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Housing Works, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog.