A renewed effort to end AIDS: “30 years and 30 million funerals”
President Obama made a bold announcement Thursday, World AIDS Day, to renew U.S. leadership in the fight against global AIDS – pledging to put 2 million more people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program by 2013.
“We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention… That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works,” Obama said in his speech at George Washington University, referring to the recent results of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 trial, which demonstrated that HIV-infected persons placed on antiretroviral therapy early were 96 percent less likely to transmit the infection to their uninfected sexual partners.
Obama was joined by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, musical artists Bono and Alicia Keys, and others to speak at the event hosted by the One Campaign to discuss “The Beginning of the End of AIDS.” The panel moderator and reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta launched the event by noting that on this 23rd World AIDS Day, in these 30 years of AIDS there have been 30 million funerals.
According to an Associated Press article, PEPFAR’s budget is not expected to increase, as cost savings generated from program efficiencies, such as decreased shipping costs and drug costs, would fund the new targets. Other targets over the next two years, according to a White House fact sheet, include distributing more than 1 million condoms in the developing world and providing funding for 4.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions in sub-Saharan Africa — scientifically proven to reduce a man’s risk of acquiring HIV infection during vaginal sex by 60 percent.
“We’re setting a goal of providing antiretroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant woman over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies,” Obama said, giving concrete targets to the vision of an AIDS-free generation set by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her speech to the National Institutes of Health last month.
“Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation, but we are,” Obama said. “And we arrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can – and will – beat this disease.”
Obama also announced a $15 million investment into the Ryan White domestic HIV/AIDS program, and an additional $35 million boost to the states’ AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.