*This article, co-authored by GAPP members amfAR and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, originally appeared on Morning Consult.

Recently, we marked the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV in the United States. In the years that followed that initial discovery, HIV emerged as a global health threat; one that would test the commitment of the global community. Now, decades of hard-fought progress are in peril as another pandemic has the world in its grip. 

But we must be able to address HIV and COVID-19 at the same time and not allow the deep disruption of COVID to unravel all that we’ve achieved. Doing so requires having the right tools in place: infrastructure, leadership, funding, and reach. 

In 2003, the U.S. stepped up as a global leader in the HIV response, launching the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. Since its inception, through innovative, target-driven and science-based HIV prevention and treatment programming, PEPFAR has saved millions of lives, helped stabilize nations through health infrastructure investments, and fundamentally changed the course of the HIV pandemic. 

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, PEPFAR has been instrumental in helping countries prepare for effective vaccine delivery, strengthening surveillance and case finding systems, and providing critical laboratory and supply chain capacity. It has deployed medical personnel and commodities and leveraged its expertise in rapidly coordinating with governments and other stakeholders to aid national COVID responses.

Leveraging PEPFAR-supported infrastructure is essential to combating COVID-19 as well as future pandemics. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that doing so cannot happen to the detriment of the fight against HIV/AIDS. We must be able to do several things at once: combat COVID-19, prepare for future pandemics and allow for expanded HIV programming.

Despite its extraordinary success and critical role in fighting current and future pandemics, PEPFAR has been under interim leadership for more than seven months. 

At the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS in June, the Biden administration stated: “To end HIV/AIDS by 2030, we need bold leadership. […] Political commitment to ending AIDS matters.” While meeting the 2030 goal is possible, doing so will require strong stewardship by way of a Senate-confirmed leader. Nominating a bold, innovative Global AIDS Coordinator who is committed to transparent and responsive programming must be an urgent priority for the Biden administration.

Read the full article here.