Here To Inspire

Obama Steps Up Fight Against HIV



President Barack Obama announced a new target Thursday of securing treatment for 6 million people by the end of 2013 and urged other countries to step up in the global fight against HIV, singling out China as one of the world’s economic powerhouses that has yet to adequately do so.

In remarks at a World AIDS Day event in Washington, D.C., Obama said the treatment goal over the next two years covers 2 million more people than originally proposed.

“Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation,” the president said at the ONE Campaign and (RED)-hosted event
that included remarks via satellite from former presidents George W.
Bush and Bill Clinton.“ But that’s what we’re talking about. That’s why we’re here. And we arrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can — and we will — beat this disease.”

Within the United States, where 1.2 million people live with HIV, the president plans to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to increase funding for HIV and AIDS treatment by $50 million. Congressional approval is not required to allocate the funds, though Obama called for continued bipartisan support of HIV/AIDS funding.

“At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and presidencies,” Obama said. “It has shown that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics.”

Obama specifically mentioned rising infection rates among gay men of color as well as disparate access to medical care among minority groups. “When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50% in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter,” he said. “When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, when black women feel forgotten even though they account for most of the new cases among women, we need to do more.”

Of international support for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts, Obama called on countries that have pledged money to the Global Fund to honor their commitments. “And countries that haven’t made a pledge need to do so. That includes China and other major economies that are now able to step up as major donors.”

The president’s address follows one made last month on HIV by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the National Institutes of Health. Clinton called for increased voluntary male circumcision as well as more support for antiretroviral medication regimens among those infected — both of which contribute to an “ideal intervention that prevents people from being infected in the first place.”

Recent studies have shown that HIV-infected individuals taking antiretroviral drugs are substantially less likely to infect sexual partners. Debates on whether resources should favor either prevention or treatment are irrelevant to the modern-day battle against HIV, Clinton said.

As part of its global outreach, the United States has set a goal of providing antiretroviral treatment to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women as well as funding 4.7 million voluntary male circumcisions in Africa over the next two years.

Moderated by CNN medical reporter Sanjay Gupta, the panel discussion at the World AIDS Day event, held at George Washington University, included Florida senator Marco Rubio, California congresswoman Barbara Lee, U2 lead singer Bono, Alicia Keys, and Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren. Warren’s ties to antigay Ugandan leaders have come under scrutiny in the past, though the American megachurch pastor has repudiated such connections.

After the jump, the president’s full remarks.