The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is deeply committed to continuing global progress toward controlling the HIV epidemic – country by country, community by community. As we join the world in confronting the unique challenges posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we are dedicated to doing what is needed to serve, support, and protect our clients, communities, staff, and partners around the world. To advance these efforts, PEPFAR is taking decisive action in the following four priority areas.
- Ensuring continuity of care for people living with HIV
PEPFAR is committed to ensuring that the over 15.7 million people living with HIV who we serve continue to receive the lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to stay healthy and maintain virologic suppression. We are working to provide at least three months (and ideally six months) of ART for our clients and to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19 by creating dedicated and separate HIV clinic spaces (where they do not already exist) at health facilities.
- Leveraging PEPFAR-supported health systems and infrastructure
PEPFAR invests more than $900 million annually to support health systems infrastructure and capacity in our partner countries, including expertise in surveillance, lab, and public health response, of which more than $140 million assists over 3,000 labs and 28 national reference labs. We are working to leverage this robust lab capacity and surveillance systems to support diagnostics for COVID-19 at the appropriate time and to ensure these systems continue to function for people living with, and communities affected by, HIV.
- Reducing exposure of staff and clients to health care settings that may be overburdened and/or sources for potential exposure to COVID-19
PEPFAR is minimizing client visits to health care settings for non-essential services to reduce their risk of potential exposure to COVID-19, protect frontline health care workers, and avoid unnecessarily taxing overburdened health care settings. We have also instructed our country teams and implementing partners to adapt HIV service delivery models to ensure social distancing, reduce contact of well persons with health care settings, and limit or pause any service provision that cannot be conducted within appropriate guidelines.
- Providing flexibility for our programs in how to optimally serve our HIV clients in areas affected by COVID-19
In close consultation with partner governments, PEPFAR is providing our country and regional teams with greater flexibility to determine how to optimally serve our HIV clients with prevention and treatment services in areas affected by COVID-19 based on the specifics of their local context. This includes protecting U.S. government staff, our implementing partners, clients, health care workers, and the broader community.
We are undertaking contingency planning and prioritization for all PEPFAR programs in the context of current and potential future disruptions. PEPFAR is built on a foundation of data-driven continuous planning, monitoring, review, adaption, and innovation. This tradition will remain strong in the context of COVID-19 as does our unwavering commitment to the people and communities we serve around the world.