WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on PEPFAR at 20: achieving and sustaining epidemic control. The witnesses included The Honorable John N. Nkengasong PhD, U.S. global AIDS coordinator and U.S. special representative for global health diplomacy, Sir Elton John, founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and The Honorable Mark Dybul M.D., professor of medicine and chief strategy officer at the Georgetown University Medical Center for Global Health Practice and Impact.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
“Despite which party controls Congress or the White House, over the last twenty years, the bipartisan coalition that supports PEPFAR remains strong.
“That’s because the basic principles of effectiveness, transparency, accountability, and results were part of PEPFAR’s DNA from the very beginning.
“Also, through PEPFAR, we have helped transform health systems and build foundations for broader health security – including for pandemic preparedness.
“But more than anything, I believe support for PEPFAR remains strong because its success is measured in lives saved. And we’ve saved millions of lives.
“PEPFAR clearly is a model. That’s why it served as the model for my recently enacted Global Health Security and International Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Act.
“But it’s also an undeniable expression of the values and interests that make us uniquely American. This is a legacy of which we can all be proud.
“That’s why I urge my colleagues to join me in working to reauthorize PEPFAR without delay and without new mandates and directives.
“As our witnesses will surely testify, the coordinator already has the authorities required to ensure PEPFAR remains fit for purpose while preserving core U.S. values and advancing long-term sustainability and self-reliance.
“This includes the authority to direct funds set aside for orphans and vulnerable children toward supporting adolescent girls, who are the most vulnerable to new infections, as well as for closing gaps in pediatric treatment.
“It also includes authority to ensure that PEPFAR-supported maternal and child health activities deliver results by preventing mother-to-child transmission.
“The requirement to devote not less than half of the budget toward life-saving treatment and care must be preserved, which is all-the-more appropriate now that treatment has become a proven form of prevention.
“Finally, we must extend the 33% cap on U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which was put in place to ensure other donors were generously providing their fair share, rather than expecting the United States to do it all. It also includes other withholding requirements relating to transparency and accountability at the Fund.
“This is a reauthorization – we do not need to recreate the wheel. And we don’t need to incorporate new directives relating to sustainability. We already did that back in 2013.
“Let’s not bog down the process by wordsmithing what already exists. This program is too important for that.
“Instead, let’s advance a clean reauthorization and get on with the business of rigorous oversight, including close scrutiny of PEPFAR’s local implementing partners.
“I hope we can all agree and commit to advancing a timely, clean reauthorization of this values-based, life-saving program.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.