FURTHERING THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV

By David Fisher, communications intern, University Marketing and Communications

If there were one piece of advice U graduate Jacquelyn (Jacki) Dover would give to current University of Utah students pursuing their passions, it would be to get out of the classroom and utilize what you are learning.

After graduating from the U’s political science program, Dover joined the State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, which works to implement the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). She was appointed to this position as a Presidential Management Fellow where she serves as a public affairs advisor, focused on areas of media relations, digital outreach and strategic communication.

“Some of my most valuable experiences as a graduate student were when my book-knowledge collided with my real-world opportunities,” said Dover. “During an internship with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Incheon, South Korea, I practiced my Korean language (my elective language at the U), attended hearings about America’s strategic foreign policy role in East Asia and witnessed the internal workings of a multilateral organization. My course work helped prepare me to take advantage of the internship opportunity, and the internship helped me better engage with my course work.”

Dover was motivated to work in international relations because she believes that our  challenges are not limited by borders and often require integrated, cooperative solutions. This is apparent through her work at PEPFAR, where partnerships are their heart of efforts to achieve sustainable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Working with diverse partners such as host countries, the Global Fund, U.N. agencies, the private sector, faith-based organizations and civil society is the only way to achieve an AIDS-free generation,” said Dover.

Dover spoke with @TheU about her experiences with PEPFAR, and its commitment to achieving an AIDS-free generation in which no one is left behind.

Q: The discussion of AIDS is still a very important global topic. What do you hope to achieve at your current position to continue the discussion on AIDS?

A: PEPFAR, in collaboration with the global community, has made incredible progress in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since 2000, new HIV infections are down by 35 percent, including 58 percent among children. AIDS-related deaths have declined by 42 percent since their peak in 2004. But our work is far from finished. AIDS still remains the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age. Stigma and discrimination still keeps some of the most vulnerable populations from accessing the treatment they deserve.

I hope my work can help keep the HIV epidemic in the forefront of our country’s foreign policy and global health decisions. The HIV/AIDS response is most effective when it is driven by data and strategic decision-making. But, amidst the facts and figures, I want to make sure the people behind the data, the people living with HIV or AIDS or supporting friends and family, don’t get lost in the conversation.

Q: What is PEPFAR, and the ultimate goal behind this relief?

A: The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history.  Initiated in 2003 by former President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama, through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has invested $70 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response, including over $55 billion since the beginning of the Obama administration.  The goal of PEPFAR is to achieve the ambitious goal of an AIDS-free generation by bringing prevention and treatment resources to the hardest hit regions of the world. An AIDS-free generation is absolutely possible within our lifetime, but it requires an immediate, intensified and strategic effort.

Q: What are some PEPFAR countries, and how as PEPFAR benefited them?

A: PEPFAR works in over 40 countries, with an especially heavy focus in sub-Saharan Africa. One of our largest efforts in the region is the DREAMS partnership, a public-private sector collaboration to bring new thinking and innovation to the goal of giving adolescent girls and young women the opportunity to live Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe lives.

Every year, 380,000 adolescent girls and young women become newly infected with HIV — more than 1,000 every day. DREAMS is working to ensure that no one gets left behind in the HIV/AIDS response. DREAMS aims to reduce HIV infections in adolescent girls living in the highest-burden areas of 10 African countries by 25 percent by the end of 2016 and by 40 percent by the end of 2017. The ten DREAMS countries are: Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Q: Every year, over 380,000 adolescent girls and young women become newly infected with HIV – more than 1,000 every day. What can we do to decrease this number and increase the response among this demographic?

A: Girls and young women are especially vulnerable to HIV infection and account for 71 percent of all new infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. Structural drivers such as gender-based violence, lack of access to education and poverty put girls and women at greater risk. In addition to the DREAMS partnership, Secretary of State John Kerry recently launched the first-ever U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls. As part of the strategy, PEPFAR is investing in keeping girls in secondary school.

When girls stay in school they are three times less likely to contract HIV. In a recent case study in Botswana, girls who stayed in school for ten years instead of just nine had their risk of HIV infection cut in half. In effect, education serves as a social vaccine to HIV.

Q: What can we do as Americans to help make an impact in improving the health of people in developing nations?

A: Around the globe — including in the United States — stigma and discrimination remain threats to some of the hardest-hit populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs and women. As Americans, and as members of the global community, we each play a role in breaking down these barriers.

When stigma and discrimination prevent access to HIV/AIDS services, the health and human dignity of everyone in that community are threatened. Access to health services is a human right. And ending the HIV epidemic is only possible when every person can access the prevention and treatment care they deserve.

For more information about the work of PEPFAR and ways to help achieve an AIDS-free generation, follow PEPFAR on Twitter @PEPFAR or on Facebook.