In early November, Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator charged with leading the implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced that he is stepping down from his position to take a professorship at the University of California, San Francisco, where he will focus on the implementation of health programs in developing countries.
The Global AIDS Coordinator is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and reports directly to the Secretary of State. According to PEPFAR website, the Coordinator:
- Leads the U.S. Government’s international HIV/AIDS efforts;
- Ensures program and policy coordination among the relevant USG agencies and departments and nongovernmental organizations, avoiding duplication of effort;
- Pursues coordination with other countries and international organizations;
- Resolves policy, program, and funding disputes among the relevant USG agencies and departments;
- Directly approves all activities of the United States relating to combating HIV/AIDS in 15 focus countries; and
- Promotes program accountability and monitor progress toward meeting the Emergency Plan’s goals.
Given the influence this position has in the implementation of USG international HIV/AIDS efforts, the search to replace Dr. Goosby is of great importance. This person is in the position to guide the direction of PEPFAR implementation and thus may place emphasis on particular initiatives and programs. This Wall Street Journal article mentions four names that are on the short list for Dr. Goosby’s successor.
Certainly there are many important qualifications and characteristics that are needed to be effective in this position. However, as part of the laboratory community, it is my hope that one of those qualifications will be a high level understanding and knowledge of the lab. With an understanding of the importance of the lab in terms of diagnostics and care and treatment I hope that this person will then guide the implementation of crucial laboratory strengthening programs. From the creation of region specific reference ranges, to better regulated supply chain management, to streamlined equipment and reagent procurement, to the training of personnel, there is much that can be improved in labs at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. With improved diagnostics, particularly at point of care sites, the care and treatment of HIV/AIDS can be improved, which will not only save and improve lives but will also save money and resources.
Thus, my plea to whomever is appointed, know the lab (or surround yourself with those who do) and make laboratory improvements a cornerstone to the continued work of PEPFAR and USG HIV/AIDS efforts.
-Marie Levy spent over five years working at American Society for Clinical Pathology in the Global Outreach department.