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September-October 2011

Vol. 35, No. 5

HIV and AIDS: Save funding for PEPFAR, Global Fund

Fr. Rick Bauer, MM, who has worked in Africa with people with HIV and AIDS since 1997, wrote the following letter to his Congressional representative, Nita Lowey (D-NY), and to the New York senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, urging them to support full funding for PEPFAR and the Global Fund, as well as the Ryan White Fund for U.S. domestic AIDS programs.

... Currently, I am the director of Catholic AIDS Action in Namibia and we have been the recipient of PEPFAR funding since 2004 and resources from the Global Fund since 2005. I can only imagine how hectic your time and schedules must be, especially right now, but humbly beg just a few minutes of your time to share with you my thoughts on the incredible and successful impact on these programs.
Catholic AIDS Action is the largest non-governmental provider of services for people affected by HIV in Namibia. We are currently providing home based palliative care services for 8,500 HIV+ clients and community based support for over 16,000 orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC), including comprehensive prevention services. We are able to do this through the professional skills and talent of 90 full time Namibian staff members who provide on-going supervision, support and training for over 2,500 Namibian volunteers.

Almost 90 percent of our home care clients are successfully on anti-retroviral treatment for HIV. With the support of CAA community volunteers, their adherence to this life-long regimen is outstanding, and their quality of life and life span significantly increasing. When there are complications or a need for referral to a health facility, the CAA community based nurse can provide this essential service. For children enrolled in our support program, they have a 97 percent school attendance rate, far above the national average of 85 percent. These most vulnerable children are cared for in their local communities, not orphanages, with the support of the community volunteer and extended family system.

We are able to provide all of these services, on a little over US$100.00 per client per year. PEPFAR is, without question, the most efficient and effective foreign aid program in the history of the United States. Sadly now, this is all in jeopardy.

It seems as if almost every day, I am called upon by the Namibian USAID office to figure out how to do "more with less." The office has warned me, that despite the enormous effectiveness of Catholic AIDS interventions, we are to expect continued decrease in funding levels. In the not to distant future, I am going to have to make that decision of who is able to receive services, and who does not. I will have to decide which child is offered the opportunity for growth, development and education, and which child will be abandoned.

I am only too well aware of the effect of the current global economic situation and the difficult choices and decisions you must make as members of Congress. But I also know that one of the standards that you must engage in making these decisions is the effectiveness and efficiency of the funded programs. Both PEPFAR and Global Fund are meeting this high standard.

I am literally begging you to vote for the provision of the full $8.9 billion for FY2012 for PEPFAR that includes $1.3 billion for the Global Fund. Without these resources, Catholic AIDS Action and the beneficiaries I have the privilege to serve, and so many other quality programs throughout the world, will cease operations.

Before coming to Africa, I worked in the United States with people living with AIDS in programs run by Catholic Charities. Our clients were often the most vulnerable and desperate in society, frequently "rejected" by other services providers. But we were able to change lives, and literally give life, through Ryan White funding. And so I also beg you to fund the Ryan White program for U.S. domestic services for $2.3 billion.

If at any time, I can provide you or your aides with additional information, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

Thank you very much for your time and your consideration of these funding matters, which are literally a matter of life and death.

Faith in action:

Quote Father Rick in your own letter to your Congressional representative and senators calling for them to support full funding for these important programs.

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