Researchers on Tuesday expressed hope for a new era for efforts to reduce global HIV/AIDS rates with the release of an Institute of Medicine report that assessed progress of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the first evaluation of the program since it was reauthorized by Congress in 2008.

The report offers new momentum for moving away from an emergency response approach of  treating the estimated 34 million people infected with HIV/AIDS and instead to preventing it and building infrastructure and sustainability in countries where the disease burden is particularly acute.

“Health is a universal aspiration throughout the world. Health serves as a vehicle for international connectedness,” said Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD, president of IOM and an APHA member. “[There is] nothing more appropriate than the kind of program that the US has formed through PEPFAR over this past decade.”

The conclusions of what is being hailed as the most rigorous evaluation of a public health program in the world focused on a single issue span a range of areas where  PEPFAR is progressing in its goals, including treatment, capacity building, prevention and sustainability.

Despite the program’s success, there is much work to be done.

“There is an urgent opportunity right now… for prevention treatment and care,” stressed Ann Kurth, a committee member of the evaluation report.

Authors underscored the need for better concrete outcomes for orphans and vulnerable children and improved investments in at-risk countries to build enough capacity to sustain PEPFAR programs in years to come.