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Is there an association between PEPFAR funding and improvement in national health indicators in Africa? A retrospective study


Abstract Background The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was reauthorized in June 2008 with a three-fold increase in funds, and a broader, more explicit mandate to improve health in the low- and middle-income countries that it funded. However, the ability of a disease-specific, or vertical, programme to have a spill-over effect and improve health outcomes has been questioned. In this study, we sought to examine associations between being designated as a PEPFAR focus country (and receiving increased PEPFAR funding) and non-HIV-specific health outcomes in the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Region, the area most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Methods A retrospective analysis of publicly available health outcomes data published by the World Health Organization was performed for all countries in the WHO Africa Region. Fractional changes in health indicators between 2000 and 2006 were calculated, and PEPFAR focus and non-focus countries were then compared. Results Overall, countries in the WHO Africa Region showed a small worsening in health outcomes status when all indicators were analyzed together and weighted equally. However, more health indicators improved than worsened over this six-year period. A comparison of PEPFAR focus and non-focus countries found no significant difference in the fractional change among 13 of 14 health indicators during the study period. Conclusions This study suggests that vertical programmes, even one that is the scale of PEPFAR, may have little or no impact on health outcomes not explicitly targeted.

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