New U.S. AIDS Ambassador Confirmed by Senate

Washington – The U.S. Senate voted late August 3 to confirm Dr. Mark Dybul as ambassador for the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator (GAC) in the U.S. Department of State.

A physician and a researcher, Dybul’s job as head of GAC is to oversee the U.S. international response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis, and specifically to direct implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Dybul has been serving as the acting ambassador since earlier this year when he was appointed to succeed Randall Tobias, who became head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

PEPFAR, a 5-year, $15 billion campaign to quell the epidemic, is the most ambitious campaign ever launched to target a single disease, according GAC.

“Looking at just 15 of the more than 120 countries where we have worked in the first two years of the Emergency Plan, we have supported treatment for over 560,000 people – 61 percent of whom are women and 8 percent of whom are children,” said Dybul when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a confirmation hearing July 31.

Three million people have received care, almost 14 million have received counseling and testing, and millions more have received prevention education, according to Dybul’s testimony.

PEPFAR administrators say their efforts to help local people build HIV/AIDS programs and services are making steady success in combating the disease, but Dybul said PEPFAR is also influencing societies in ways that reach beyond the health care sector.

“As an HIV clinic raises standards, other areas of the hospital want to implement similar requirements,” Dybul said, “and as communities see accountability developing for HIV, they are starting to demand accountability for other health programs, garbage collection and even appropriate regulation of local businesses.”

With those results, Dybul said, PEPFAR initiatives demonstrate the transformational diplomacy espoused by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (See related article)

The goal of the PEPFAR program over its 5-year life is to treat 2 million people infected with HIV/AIDS, prevent 7 million new infections and provide care to 10 million HIV-positive persons, or children orphaned by the disease.

Dybul urged the Senate to fulfill the Bush administration’s full request for funding the program in the year ahead in order to meet those goals.

Dybul’s testimony is available on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Web site. His biography can be found on the Department of State Web site.

See President Bush’s HIV/AIDS Initiatives.