President Barack Obama on Thursday observed World AIDS Day by announcing new steps designed to promote an AIDS-free generation.

Obama and two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, joined a discussion panel on the subject titled The Beginning of the End of AIDS at George Washington University.

At the event, the president laid out new initiatives to combat the pandemic.

The plan builds on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) originally launched in 2003 by Bush with a $15 billion budget. PEPFAR focuses on 15 countries hit hard by the pandemic, 12 of them in Africa.

The early years of the pandemic was about “ringing the alarm; calling for global action; proving that this deadly disease was not isolated to one area or one people,” Obama said.

“And that's part of what makes today so remarkable; because back in those early years, few could have imagined this day … Few could have imagined that we'd be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. But we are.”

The president also lamented that in the United States rates of infection remained stuck in neutral.

“The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly fifty percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. 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.”

The president laid out an ambitious target of increasing the number of people around the globe on anti-retroviral therapy by 2 million by the end of 2013.

Funding to combat the disease will increase in the United States, the president said.

“We're committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by the HIV medical clinics across the country. Let's keep their doors open so they can keep saving lives. And we're committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.”