The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is proud to join the global community in celebrating International Women’s Day. In recognition of this year’s global theme – #BreakTheBias – PEPFAR echoes the importance of eliminating bias against women and dismantling barriers to achieving gender equality.
In alignment with the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality , the principles of equity and inclusion are fundamental to PEPFAR programs and are critical to achieving women’s equality and sustainable epidemic control of HIV . PEPFAR invests nearly $2 billion annually in direct bilateral support for women and girls to be healthy and achieve their dreams across more than 50 countries.
Data shows that women and girls ages 15-24 are disproportionately burdened with HIV, and PEPFAR supports them by providing many of the health services, as well as educational and economic opportunities, they need to reach their full potential. By using a person-centered approach to HIV prevention and treatment services, PEPFAR honors the diverse identities of women and girls and responds to their unique experiences and needs to maximize HIV outcomes.
PEPFAR’s longstanding commitment to women and girls continues to yield lifesaving results. Last year, through the PEPFAR-led DREAMS Partnership, 2.9 million adolescent girls and young women were reached with comprehensive HIV prevention services. Additionally, PEPFAR supports HIV treatment for over 11 million women and girls.
PEPFAR further protects women’s health through its Go Further public-private partnership, in collaboration with the George W. Bush Institute, UNAIDS, Merck, and Roche, which aims to reduce cervical cancer cases among women living with HIV (WLHIV) by 95 percent across the 12 African countries. Since the launch of Go Further in 2018, PEPFAR has invested nearly $130 million through Go Further, performing more than 3.4 million cervical cancer screenings of WLHIV and supporting treatment of detected pre-cancerous lesions or suspected cancer for more than 125,000 women.
PEPFAR supports the advancement of gender equity and equality in principle and in practice. We actively disavow practices that impede women’s ability to fully participate in PEPFAR programs and have equitable access to HIV clinical services. We support zero tolerance for exploitation or discrimination based on gender, sex, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, or disability. We are deeply committed to ensuring the safety of all participants in PEPFAR’s interventions and services and safeguarding them from sexual exploitation and abuse.
Perhaps most importantly, through PEPFAR investments, we help ensure that girls and young women are meaningfully engaged on all issues impacting their lives to help them reach their full potential. PEPFAR creates space and opportunities for women-led organizations to directly design and deliver HIV prevention and treatment interventions, which not only advances the HIV response but also contributes to greater gender equality.
We stand in solidarity with the international community in commemorating International Women’s Day and calling for an end to bias that continues to hinder the advancement of women. PEPFAR recognizes that achieving gender equality is crucial to achieving sustained epidemic control of HIV and is necessary to creating a safer, more equitable, and more inclusive world where individuals of all identities can thrive.
About the Author: Dr. Angeli Achrekar is the Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.