British pop icon Elton John has implored the US Congress to remain steadfast in the battle against HIV and AIDS, as lawmakers face a crucial deadline in September to reauthorize a multibillion-dollar program aimed at combating the disease.
In a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), John delivered a powerful message via videolink, extolling the program's achievements and encouraging continued efforts.
"There is no better symbol of American greatness than PEPFAR, and you should all be very proud of your extraordinary efforts," the singer proclaimed.
Reauthorizing PEPFAR for another five years
PEPFAR, established in 2003 under former President George W.
Bush, has received support from both political parties. As the program approaches its September 30 deadline for reauthorization, some experts predict that the process may be complicated by partisan disagreements regarding the raising of the federal debt limit and cutting government spending.
However, John urged Congress to "keep [their] foot on the accelerator." He continued, "We've come so far in such a short time, relatively. By extending PEPFAR for another five years and fully funding it, together we can continue the march toward ending AIDS for everyone everywhere and leave no one behind."
A Record of Success
The PEPFAR program has been credited with saving 25 million lives and creating health networks that have played a crucial role in fighting the Ebola outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to US Global AIDS Coordinator John Nkengasong.
Lawmakers have expressed a desire for a "clean" reauthorization, with existing legislation left unchanged.
The Future of the Fight Against AIDS
Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic Chairman of the committee, emphasized the significance of the upcoming five years in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. "The next five years will determine whether we meet the goal of ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030," he stated.
Senator Jim Risch, the panel's top Republican, echoed Menendez's sentiment, urging his colleagues to work towards reauthorizing PEPFAR "without delay and without new mandates and directives."