Foreign aid in the United States accounts for less than 1 percent of all federal spending. Despite that, several Republicans want to slash, if not eliminate, assistance to poorer nations. But a new report on the effectiveness of one aid program should make policymakers reconsider that broad approach.
A study released Wednesday showed that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) averted 741,000 deaths between 2004 and 2008. Previous research found that PEPFAR, created in 2003 by President George W. Bush, had prevented AIDS-related deaths, although researchers did not know if those people were dying of other diseases instead. But this report shows that is no the case, according to Reuters:
Data for the new study came from surveys done with adult women in 27 African countries, including nine with PEPFAR programs. Women were asked about their adult siblings and recent deaths in their families. The researchers used that information to calculate approximately how many adults in each country were dying every year, for any reason.
In 2003, Bendavid and his colleagues found that between eight and nine out of every 1,000 adults died, both in PEPFAR and non-PEPFAR nations. Countries in the new report that weren’t part of the program included Madagascar, Liberia, Senegal and Zimbabwe.
Five years later, death rates had dropped to four per 1,000 in PEPFAR countries and declined more modestly to seven out of every 1,000 without the program. That worked out to a 16 percent lower chance of death in countries with PEPFAR between 2004 and 2008, once other factors such as a country’s overall HIV rate and wealth were taken into account, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Despite the proven results, Mitt Romney would cut PEPFAR funds if elected president. At a New Hampshire town hall last October, Romney said he was “very reluctant to borrow lots more money to be able to do wonderful things, if those things can be done by people making charitable contributions or if other countries that are wealthy.” But as Bush said of PEPFAR last year, “We’re a blessed nation in the United States of America and I believe we are required to support effective programs that save lives.”
Romney is not always against spending or borrowing more money, however. From 2003 to 2008, Congress appropriated $18.8 billion to PEPFAR, or $3.76 billion a year. In contrast, Romney’s budget plan would increase the military budget by at least $210 billion a year over 10 years. Overall, the tax cuts in his budget would cost $10.7 trillion over the next decade.