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AVAC applauds confirmation of Dr. Deborah Birx as US Global AIDS Coordinator

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April 2, 2014
General

New York – AVAC today applauds Dr. Deborah Birx on her official confirmation as the new US Global AIDS Coordinator. Dr. Birx will lead the 10 year old President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which plays a critical role in the global fight against AIDS.

“We at AVAC are extremely excited that President Obama nominated and the Senate unanimously confirmed such an innovative and visionary person to lead this global effort. We are at a critical juncture in the global fight against AIDS, and Dr. Birx is the ideal leader for the work that lies ahead,” said Mitchell Warren, AVAC executive director.

“Dr. Birx’s sterling career in both HIV prevention research and service delivery has always been characterized by passionate commitment to ambitious, innovative responses to the epidemic,” Warren added. Dr. Birx focused her early career on AIDS vaccine research, ultimately serving as Director of the US Military HIV Research Program as it initiated the RV 144 vaccine trial that showed in 2009 through modest efficacy that an AIDS vaccine was possible. Dr. Birx is committed to the promise of combination prevention including the need for new tools such as an AIDS vaccine. More recently, as director of the Global AIDS Program at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she has helped keep the focus on setting and attaining ambitious prevention and treatment goals in communities around the world hard hit by the HIV epidemic.

“As a member of AVAC’s board of directors, Dr. Birx lent her experience and wisdom to our global advocacy work, and we know her as a keen advocate for a comprehensive response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We congratulate her on this confirmation and look forward to continuing to work with her in the global fight to end AIDS,” Warren said.

Dr. Birx is assuming this role at a critical time for PEPFAR. Her leadership will be essential in achieving the goals laid out in the PEPFAR Blueprint for Creating an AIDS-Free Generation.

Last year, PEPFAR met an ambitious target for scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision, and it is continuing to expand available treatment slots for people living with HIV. But there is difficult work ahead for Dr. Birx and her team—specifically, it is essential to ensure that planned transitions from direct US aid to country ownership of programs do not proceed at the expense of quality services. PEPFAR must demonstrate leadership in ensuring that people not only start AIDS treatment, but remain on it, reaping the full benefits of effective viral suppression.

It is also critical that PEPFAR continue to engage with civil society as it drafts and implements its plans for country-level work. Dr. Birx, with her established commitment to working with civil society, will be a an important ally for this work going forward. Finally, the PEPFAR program needs a strong advocate at home, and we look to Dr. Birx to ensure that PEPFAR remains fully funded and ambitious in its targets for the next five years and beyond.

Dr. Birx assumes this role at a time when new anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria coupled with existing laws that criminalize homosexuality in many countries around the world endanger a comprehensive response to HIV and the human rights of many men and women. She and her team will need to find ways to continue supporting essential HIV prevention and treatment services for people in these countries while also ensuring that organizations and individuals which promulgate homophobic policies and support discriminatory laws are identified and isolated from service provision. This is a key immediate step as the US and the global community works to secure human rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, worldwide.

“Dr. Birx follows in the footsteps of two previous leaders who helped to create and mold a truly transformational global health program that the US can be proud of. We now look forward to this next chapter of one of the greatest stories in public health,” Warren added.

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About AVAC: Founded in 1995, AVAC is a non-profit organization that uses education, policy analysis, advocacy and a network of global collaborations to accelerate the ethical development and global delivery of AIDS vaccines, male circumcision, microbicides, PrEP and other emerging HIV prevention options as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic.

Contact:

Mitchell Warren, mitchell@avac.org, +1-914-661-1536

Kay Marshall, kay@avac.org, +1-347-249-6375