Clinton Appoints Ellen DeGeneres as Global HIV/AIDS Envoy
November 08 2011 4:18 PM ET
In a Tuesday address to the National Institutes of Health, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized voluntary male circumcision programs and mother-to-child transmission reduction efforts as vital to building the foundation for an “AIDS-free generation.”
Clinton also announced that she had named Ellen DeGeneres as a special envoy for global AIDS awareness. “Your words will encourage Americans in joining you to make their voices heard in our campaign to achieve an AIDS-free generation,” Secretary Clinton wrote to DeGeneres in a letter released Tuesday. “The enormous platform of your television show and your social media channels will enable you to reach millions of people with the strong and hopeful message that we can win this fight.”
In the NIH address, 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.
The secretary also called for dramatic reductions in mother-to-child transmissions by 2015: “We can get that number to zero,” she said.
Any goal of eradicating the virus for future generations will require significant and sustained funding — a clear challenge at a time when global economic crises have contributed to a decline in private donations and government HIV/AIDS funding, which dropped nearly 10% worldwide in 2010 compared to the previous year.
But Clinton called on Washington — as well as nations that have the economic means to adequately fund HIV/AIDS programs but have been unwilling to do so — to make such initiatives a priority.
“In these difficult budget times, we have to remember that investing in our future is the smartest investment we can make,” Clinton said.
The secretary also criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality, saying they are an obstacle to effective reduction in infection rates — a sentiment echoed by many HIV experts.
Responding to her State Department appointment, DeGeneres said in a statement, “I’m honored to have been chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as Special Envoy for Global AIDS awareness. The fight against AIDS is something that has always been close to my heart. And I’m happy that I can use my platform to educate people and spread hope.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look up what ‘envoy’ means,” DeGeneres quipped.
Below, a video compilation of the remarks via Think Progress LGBT. After the jump, full text of Clinton's speech.