Submitted by: Jessica DiRocco

It’s shocking what two little pills can do for someone living with HIV/AIDS. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs have been a lifesaving advance in the treatment of HIV/AIDS because they limit the virus’ power to weaken the immune system. A stronger immune system means stronger individuals. Instead of sickness and immediate death, HIV becomes a manageable disease. Mothers can continue to take care of their children, husbands can continue to support their families, and children can continue to attend school. All because of two little pills. The USG, through PEPFAR, has already put almost 2.5 million people on treatment worldwide, with plans to support four million people by 2015.

To assist in reaching this goal, USAID focuses on activities that directly and indirectly support the provision of antiretroviral therapy. USAID’s comprehensive AntiRetroViral program includes: increasing access to ARVs and other medications, improving the physical infrastructure of laboratories and facilities, ensuring a consistent supply of quality drugs and commodities, building the personal capacity for health care workers to manage antiretroviral therapy programs, nutritional supplementation programs, and provide psychosocial support of patients before and throughout treatment.

The transformation of most of the people on ARVs is nothing short of amazing. After only a couple moths of ARV treatment, many individuals who were bedridden and facing death, became strong advocates armed with huge smiles and their powerful stories. In fact, several studies have begun to support the idea that people living with HIV may achieve near-normal life-expectancies through the simple act of taking their ARV drugs every day.

These remarkable results have been captured over the years through words, photos, and videos.

In 2007, the Global Fund teamed with Magnum Photos to create Access to Life- a series of photo essays which documented the impact of antiretroviral treatment on the lives of individuals around the world.

Just this year, (RED) worked with HBO to create The Lazarus Effect, a film which illustrates the transformative effect of ARV treatment through the stories of HIV-positive individuals in Zambia. USAID staff received a special screening of the film only a short time after it premiered on HBO, with representatives from (RED) present to show their support of USAID and PEPFAR work.

Most recently, the Topsy Foundation, which receives funding from Right to Care, a USAID and PEPFAR partner based in South Africa, created a short video on Selinah, a woman living with AIDS in South Africa, who experienced the disease effects of the disease being reversed over a three month period with the help of ARVs. The Topsy Foundation even won the Cannes Gold Lion award for the video at the 57th Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

USAID stays committed to the goals of PEPFAR and the Global Health Initiative to put more than four million people on treatment. USAID programs will continue to work so people like Selinah can maintain a healthy life.