December 1, 2020 at 9:28 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Pompeo praises PEPFAR in World AIDS Day statement
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday issued a statement that acknowledges World AIDS Day.

“On World AIDS Day, we mourn all those we’ve lost and reaffirm our commitment to end the global AIDS epidemic,” tweeted Pompeo.

Pompeo’s statement did not explicitly acknowledge LGBTQ people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began nearly four decades ago. Pompeo, however, noted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS around the world.

“Thanks to PEPFAR, we’ve saved 20 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections and strengthened global health security in over 50 countries around the world,” tweeted Pompeo.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the State Department, also coordinates the White House’s coronavirus task force. Birx on Tuesday in a World AIDS Day statement posted to the State Department’s website also applauded PEPFAR.  

“This World AIDS Day, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS, it is breathtaking to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still need to travel together, as a global community, in saving and improving millions of lives touched by the pandemic,” said Birx. “Over the past 18 years, with strong bipartisan leadership across multiple U.S. presidencies and U.S. congresses, and the incredible generosity of the American people, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has helped transform the HIV response from crisis toward control.”

“Where AIDS once meant unfathomable death and despair, there is now vibrant life and hope,” she added. “The figures speak for themselves — 20 million lives saved, millions of HIV infections prevented, and the AIDS epidemic being controlled in a growing number of countries — but the numbers cannot fully capture the magnitude of what the U.S. government has accomplished through PEPFAR, working in close partnership with countries and communities around the world.”

UNAIDS indicates 38 million people around the world were living with HIV in 2019. The agency’s statistics indicate 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began.

The World AIDS Day proclamation that President Trump issued on Monday did not specifically mention LGBTQ people. The outgoing administration pledged to end the epidemic by 2030, but it’s proposals to cut PEPFAR funding have been sharply criticized.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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