Report: Bush's PEPFAR Has Saved More Than 16 Million Lives

President George W. Bush at tanzania hospital

WASHINGTON -- The George W. Bush initiative to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa has saved more than 16 million lives so far, according to a new administration report on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

That includes 14 million men, women, and children on lifesaving drugs and 2.2 million babies born HIV-free to HIV-positive mothers.

The program has also helped 6.4 million orphans and caregivers, and provided 15.2 million men and boys with circumcision to lower the risk of HIV transmission. Additionally, a quarter of a million medical personnel have been trained to improve care for HIV and other outbreaks.

In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush announced the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, as "seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many."

"As our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling, as a blessed country, is to make the world better," Bush said then. "Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus, including 3 million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than 4 million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims -- only 50,000 -- are receiving the medicine they need."

At the time, the cost for life-saving antiretroviral treatment had dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, "which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp," Bush said.

Bush had asked Congress for $15 billion over the next five years to treat 2 million HIV patients and prevent 7 million new infections. That was the birth of PEPFAR.

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a five-year PEPFAR extension, in legislation from Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

“For more than 15 years, PEPFAR has saved millions of lives by beginning to reverse the devastation of HIV/AIDS through targeted treatment and prevention," Corker said in a statement. "With continued U.S. support and the increasing leadership of partner governments, PEPFAR is in position to the control the epidemic."

Menendez said the bill is "sending a clear signal" from Congress "that despite recommended cuts to the program from the Trump administration, the United States has no intention of abandoning the global fight against HIV/AIDS."

"The generosity of the American people through PEPFAR has changed the tide of human history, enabling millions of people to access lifesaving treatment who would otherwise not have had access," he added.

"However more work remains to be done to end the epidemic."