The Benefits of Bipartisanship

Since its inception, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been a beacon of bipartisanship. Launched by President Bush in 2003, expanded by President Obama, and supported by substantial, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, PEPFAR has saved and improved millions of lives -- and helped to change the trajectory of the global HIV and AIDS response.

Today, I was honored to speak at the Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) Conference on Strategic Health Diplomacy. The topic: U.S. National Security Benefits from Global Health. Last Friday, former U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist launched a landmark BPC report entitled: "The Case for Strategic Health Diplomacy: A Study of PEPFAR". In it, they argue that "There is no better example of the power of a well-executed global health initiative than the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief."

They add, "PEPFAR's positive health impacts over the last decade are indisputable: it has reduced HIV/AIDS-related mortality and morbidity and rapidly expanded access to anti-retroviral treatments for more than 7.7 million men, women, and children. Equally important is that PEPFAR may have had key secondary effects on public opinion, socio-economic development, and state stability, which all in turn boost U.S. national security objectives."

In short, the report asserts that PEPFAR is not only the right thing to do -- it's also the smart, strategic, and secure thing. In their extensive analysis, Senators Daschle and Frist find that PEPFAR's impact extends far beyond the health sector. In comparing PEPFAR-supported countries in sub-Saharan Africa to a set of similar non-PEPFAR-supported countries in the region, the report finds that:

• Between 2004 and 2013, political instability and violence reduced by 40 percent in PEPFAR countries versus only 3 percent in non-PEPFAR countries.
• Rule of law ratings also increased by 31 percent versus only 7 percent.
• Between 2007 and 2011, the average approval rating for the U.S. was 68 percent in countries receiving PEPFAR assistance versus a global average of 46 percent.
• From 1991 to 2012, the average output per worker increased by a third in PEPFAR countries versus no growth in non-PEPFAR countries.

PEPFAR is firmly focused on preventing new HIV infections, saving lives, and partnering with countries to control their epidemics and, ultimately, achieve an AIDS-free generation. And as Senators Daschle and Frist affirm, "Healthier populations build more prosperous societies, more competent institutions, and more stable governments."

I couldn't agree more.