Global AIDS program targeted in abortion battle gets new home in State Department bureau

Aug 1, 2023, 1:19 PM

Ambassador-at-Large John Nkengasong, new head of the Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy...

Ambassador-at-Large John Nkengasong, new head of the Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy at the State Department, speaks during the launch of the new bureau, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department launched a new bureau Tuesday aimed at making the battle against global outbreaks a lasting priority of U.S. foreign policy, even as one of its key elements – a widely acclaimed HIV program – has become caught up in the political battle over abortion.

The bureau is to include the 20-year-old initiative known as the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program is relatively unknown to Americans but has succeeded beyond most early expectations in addressing the AIDS crisis and is credited with saving up to 25 million lives worldwide.

The bureau will be led by a public health official integral to PEPFAR, John N. Nkengasong. Born in Cameroon, Nkengasong was a founder of U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention operations in Africa. He helped set up some of the sub-Saharan’s first sophisticated labs for work with HIV and AIDS.

President George W. Bush started PEPFAR in Africa in 2003. The program retains bipartisan support. But anti-abortion groups and some House Republicans, including Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, are pushing to attach abortion-related limits on U.S. health support overseas to the reauthorizing legislation They are also seeking yearly votes on PEPFAR’s continuance.

While the Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to try to squash any such GOP conditions on the HIV program, the skirmish signals the PEPFAR program is now likely a captive of U.S. abortion politics going forward.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a ceremony for the new Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy, made only a passing reference to the abortion fight threatening PEPFAR’s normally assured support from lawmakers, saying he hoped Congress approved the program for another five years, without amendments.

The $100 billion in U.S. support for the PEPFAR program over 20 years is credited with lasting improvements in health care systems globally.

Nkengasong helped establish one of the first local government-run HIV drug programs, in Ivory Coast at a time that HIV and AIDS medications were too scarce and too costly for most people in the sub-Saharan

The lessons learned from the U.S. HIV program “are applied daily” in dealing with other threats, he said Tuesday.

The success of the PEPFAR program as it grew across Africa and around the world over decades made it “the single greatest health achievement in history,” said Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Power cited the economic and human toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pointed to estimates that the warming climate and other changing conditions make for a 40% increase in the chances that another pandemic on the same scale as COVID will happen in our lifetimes.

Creation of the new bureau is meant to raise health security as a global priority, build up the capacity of U.S. diplomats and local health systems globally to better curb outbreaks, and get the most out of U.S. assistance to health systems globally, Blinken said.

United States News

Associated Press

Truck gets wedged in tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn after ignoring warnings

NEW YORK (AP) — A driver who took an 18-wheel tractor-trailer inside a tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn on Thursday despite height restriction warnings got wedged in, officials said, causing a massive traffic jam until early afternoon when emergency personnel were able to remove it. The truck driver entered the Hugh L. Carey tunnel going […]

8 minutes ago

Associated Press

Ohio football coach whose team called ‘Nazi’ during game says he was forced to resign, no ill intent

BROOKLYN, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio high school football coach says he was forced to resign by his school district and intended no harm to opposing players after he and his team repeatedly used “Nazi” as a game call in a Sept. 22 match. In an interview with The Associated Press Thursday, former Brooklyn High […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Former lawmaker who led Michigan marijuana board is sent to prison for bribery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man formerly known as a powerful Michigan lawmaker was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in federal prison for accepting bribes as head of a marijuana licensing board. Rick Johnson admitted accepting at least $110,000 when he led the board from 2017 to 2019. “I am a corrupt politician,” […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin corn mill owners plead to federal charges in fatal explosion, will pay $11.25 million

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A milling company has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges that employees at a Wisconsin corn plant falsified records in the years leading up to a fatal corn dust explosion. The plea deal calls for Didion Milling Inc. to pay a $1 million fine and $10.25 million to the estates […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Colorado fugitive sentenced to prison for spectacular Caesars Palace standoff in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former fugitive from Colorado who pleaded guilty to causing a spectacular Las Vegas Strip hotel standoff that included furniture flying from a Caesars Palace window was sentenced Thursday to pay nearly $55,300 in restitution to the hotel and to serve up to four years of prison time. Matthew John Ermond […]

3 hours ago

Cindy McCain accepts the President Medal of Freedom on the behalf of her late husband Sen. John McC...

Kevin Stone

John McCain was ‘very well aware’ of plans for library, Cindy McCain says

Planning for a library honoring John McCain’s legacy was underway before the Arizona political icon’s death in 2018, Cindy McCain said.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.


Ignite Digital

How to unlock the power of digital marketing for Phoenix businesses

All businesses around the Valley hopes to maximize their ROI with current customers and secure a greater market share in the digital sphere.


Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

Global AIDS program targeted in abortion battle gets new home in State Department bureau