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
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,”
“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.”