Guest Opinions

Idaho’s U.S. lawmakers must help fight the global AIDS crisis

Ali Escalante
Ali Escalante

You wouldn’t know it from watching the news or listening to lawmakers, but AIDS isn’t a disease of the past, it’s a crisis of now.

Roughly 2,500 people die from AIDS every single day. Every minute, three more people are infected with HIV. It doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why I traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to talk to Idaho lawmakers about the importance of maintaining America’s leadership in the global fight against AIDS. During my trip, I met with the office of Sen. Jim Risch to discuss why we must maintain funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of our best tools to fight AIDS, ahead of its October replenishment.

For nearly two decades, the U.S. has led the global push to eliminate AIDS in a bipartisan manner. Members of both parties in Congress have reached across the aisle and worked hand in hand with Republican and Democratic presidential administrations to advance the global fight against AIDS.

America’s leadership in the fight against AIDS has saved millions of lives and given hope to people around the globe. Idaho has even been a leader in the fight to end preventable diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria. New analysis from the ONE Campaign has shown that since 2002, through their support to the Global Fund, Idaho taxpayers have helped save roughly 29,000 lives. In 2017 alone, Idaho taxpayers helped provide antiretroviral therapy for roughly 18,000 people with HIV.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Donald Trump put a needed spotlight on the AIDS crisis in the U.S. and beyond. However, for the past two years, the White House has proposed two major cuts to the global AIDS response. Pumping the brakes on years of steadfast investment in the Global Fund and PEPFAR would reverse our hard-fought progress at a time when we need to be keeping our foot on the gas.

The Global Fund has helped save tens of millions of lives over its first 15 years in operation, and a fully funded Global Fund would help us save 16 million more lives by 2023. The U.S currently contributes $1 for every $2 contributed by other governments, foundations and the private sector, and that commitment has been leveraged to incentivize major investments from other donors.

Working in concert with PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria has been one of the most effective and efficient health organizations on the planet. In my meeting with Risch, I was greatly encouraged by his stated support for the Global Fund. I hope the rest of Idaho’s lawmakers will take a similar interest in preserving America’s leadership in the AIDS fight.

We have come too far in the global battle to end AIDS, and it’s time for America to send another strong signal to the world that we aren’t stopping now.

In her volunteer role, Ali Escalante leads advocacy efforts for the ONE Campaign in Boise.