Letter: We need to scale up HIV/AIDS efforts

Maggie Olson

On Wednesday Oct. 11, we celebrated the International Day of the Girl. On this day, I began to think about the lives of women and girls in other countries. There are an estimated 17.8 million women worldwide living with HIV, which constitutes 51 percent of all people living with HIV. Girls between the ages of 15-24 are disproportionately impacted by this horrendous disease. There are an estimated 2.3 million young women and girls living with HIV worldwide. They make up 60 percent of all young individuals with HIV.

As recently as 2002, HIV was considered a death sentence. Today, through programs such as PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief) and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been changed. New HIV infections have declined by 50 percent and the cost of antiretroviral medications have been reduced to just 1 percent of their previous cost. 

Due to these amazing accomplishments, global leaders have set the goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. We are halfway to our goal, but 20 million people worldwide are not on treatments and an estimated 5,000 people become infected with HIV every day. 

In order to achieve this amazing goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, we need to scale up our efforts. In fiscal year 2018 PEPFAR funding needs to be increased by $667 million to a total of $4.98 billion, and funding to the Global Fund must remain at $1.475 billion. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken should both support these funding plans and persuade their colleagues to do the same, in order to save the estimated 1.1 million people who die of HIV/AIDS related causes each year.

This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.

Maggie Olson is a genetics junior at the University of Minnesota and is part of the club Partners in Health Engage.