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09 June 2009
President Obama's choice to lead the U.S. effort to fight AIDS worldwide says he will emphasize prevention if he is confirmed by the Senate.
If confimed by the Senate as the State Department's global AIDS coordinator, Dr. Eric Goosby would also be administrator of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known by its acronym, PEPFAR.
PEPFAR was launched by former President Bush in 2003 and is expected to spend $48 billion over the next five years on fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The program has been credited with markedly reducing the death rate from AIDS.
Goosby told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducting his confirmation hearing that he would work to continue PEPFAR's success. "My mission if confirmed will be to ensure that PEPFAR continues to be a visionary program, a program that continues to exceed our expectations of what can and should be provided to people in resource-poor settings. Working closely with our global partners, we can help reclaim the lives of millions of people who would otherwise be lost to the infection," he said.
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, also praised PEPFAR's achievements. "Before the program began, only 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa were receiving life-saving antiretroviral drugs. Today, three times that many are being treated in Kenya alone. Pepfar also focuses on prevention programs, with the target of preventing 12 million new HIV infections, including medical interventions that allow HIV-positive mothers to give birth to HIV-negative babies," he said.
Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who chaired the hearing, underscored the importance of prevention in reducing AIDS. "We cannot treat our way out of this pandemic alone. The numbers of infections continue to rise in some countries. We need to continue exploring and investing in new prevention strategies to stem the spread of HIV," he said.
Goosby agreed, saying he would focus on prevention programs if confirmed to the post.
Goosby is currently chief executive officer of Pangea Global AIDS Foundation and professor of clinical medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. He was a key player in developing and implementing national HIV-AIDS treatment programs in China, Rwanda, South Africa and Ukraine. He also served as deputy director of White House National AIDS Policy Office in the Clinton administration.