PEPFAR at 20: Building Bridges with Faith-Based Partners in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

A young woman in a blue t-shirt with PEPFAR and USAID logos smiles as she walks in a group  of other young women.

This article was shared by USAID’s Local, Faith, and Transformative Partnerships (LFT) Hub as part of our Localization & Inclusive Development blog series.

USAID partners with and alongside faith-based and community organizations to advance shared development and humanitarian assistance goals. These organizations are essential partners in development—often known for their distinctive contributions to the communities they serve. The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships embodies USAID’s commitment to these partnerships. The Center has a legacy of building bridges between USAID and faith actors, at home and overseas, to achieve sustainable, locally led solutions within our broader development agenda. 

“Faith-based organizations often hold positions of special trust—and provide essential social support—particularly in societies wary of outsiders and even their own governments. Their unique, embedded presence makes these organizations indispensable components in the international development community mosaic,” wrote Adam Phillips, Director of USAID’s LFT Hub in a 2020 issue of The Review of Faith and International Affairs.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which marked its 20th anniversary on January 28, offers a strong example of faith-based engagement. President George W. Bush established PEPFAR in 2003 to respond to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, and since that time the U.S. government has invested more than $100 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response. PEPFAR-funded activities, often implemented in partnership with faith-based and community organizations, have saved 25 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and accelerated progress toward stabilizing or decreasing the global HIV/AIDS pandemic in more than 50 countries. 

As a proud implementer of PEPFAR, USAID leads worldwide efforts to control and ultimately end the HIV pandemic. In Fiscal Year 2022, through PEPFAR, USAID provided more than seven million clients with life-saving HIV treatment, supported nearly six million orphans and vulnerable children and their families affected by HIV with critical services, and reached nearly two million members of key populations with HIV prevention services and supportive interventions. 

As we commemorate PEPFAR’s 20th anniversary, two examples of partnerships with faith-based organizations stand out. Often embedded in communities and with significant local knowledge, expertise, and trust, religious actors have played critical roles in advancing progress in controlling the HIV epidemics in partner countries. 

In 15 African countries and Haiti, the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) program aims to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in the highest HIV burden countries. DREAMS delivers a comprehensive package of core health and other services to address drivers like exclusion from economic opportunities, lack of access to secondary school, and gender-based violence, that increase HIV risk among AGYW. USAID partners with faith-based and community organizations, like Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and other local partners, to implement the program.

In Eswatini, USAID partners with The Luke Commission, a faith-based organization, to deliver HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. The Luke Commission’s “Miracle Campus” offers comprehensive health services with an emergency department and inpatient ward, and the organization also provides mobile health services to reach those with limited access. 

Reflecting on 20 years of life-saving progress through PEPFAR offers insight into the critical role of faith-based partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS and in efforts to sustain HIV epidemic control at the most local level. Looking ahead, USAID will continue to build bridges with faith-based and community partners in every region and sector where we work in order to advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.

Do you lead a faith-based or community organization working in development or humanitarian assistance? Join’s Partner Directory to introduce your organization to the Agency and expand your partnership network. You also may examine your partnership readiness by taking our Pre-Engagement Assessment and exploring our Resource Library

To connect with the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, please email

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