By Chris Collins and Michal McDowell
Only about one quarter of one percent of the U.S. federal budget is dedicated to advancing global health through programs that fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, deliver vaccines to children, and provide other lifesaving services. That small sliver of the budget works out to an average annual U.S. taxpayer contribution of $14.14 to government-supported global health programming.
What does $14 buy? Based on the costs associated with various health commodities and programs, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, has estimated that the average U.S. taxpayer's global health contribution enables the delivery of HIV/AIDS treatment for one person for two and a half weeks, or malaria treatment for 26 people, or combination vaccines that prevent a variety of diseases for two children.
What if taxpayers wanted to contribute a little more than $14 a year to U.S.-funded global health programming? If the average taxpayer invested $25 a year in global health through his or her taxes, that would support HIV/AIDS treatment for one person for nearly a month, or malaria treatment for 46 people, or combination vaccines for about four children.
Click here for an infographic that illustrates what taxpayer contributions to global health buy.
U.S.-funded global health programs have made an enormous impact over the last decade. According to a 2012 study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, between 2004 and 2008, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was associated with a reduction in the odds of death of nearly 20 percent in the countries where it operated. Researchers found that more than 740,000 lives were saved in nine target countries during this period. A 2013 report released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that malaria deaths among children in sub-Saharan Africa started declining rapidly in 2005. The report attributed this success to increased distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and malaria treatment expanded through programs funded in large part by the U.S. government.
U.S. investments in foreign assistance save the lives of the world's neediest and serve U.S. diplomatic interests. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in February, "Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It is not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and a free world."
Now is the time to invest in global health and turn the corner on AIDS and other global health priorities. Given the enormous payoffs, America can afford to do more.
Chris Collins is vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Michal McDowell is an amfAR Allan Rosenfield HIV/AIDS Public Policy Fellow. For more information on amfAR, visit www.amfar.org.