President Obama, speaking on World AIDS Day at George Washington University, vowed to renew America’s commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic once and for all. Before a crowd that included Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Bono, Alicia Keys and Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Obama said the United States would commit an additional $50 million to the cause.
“Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation,” he said. “We will beat this disease.”
Of the new financial commitment, $15 million will go to the Ryan White Program, which supports HIV medical clinics, and $35 million will go to AIDS-drug assistance programs in individual states.
“The federal government can’t do this alone,” Obama continued. “I’m also calling on state governments and pharmaceutical companies and private foundations to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.”
World AIDS Day is observed annually on Dec. 1 and draws the support of millions around the globe. This year’s theme, which was utilized in speeches and campaigns, is “Getting to Zero,” a unified goal that the UNAIDS organization is determined to achieve. By 2015, the global program hopes to reduce sexual and vertical transmission of HIV by half, with more benchmarks down the road.
UNAIDS has a three-pronged strategy: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
HIV, which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, can be passed on through infected bodily fluids. AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is the final stage of HIV infection when people have badly damaged immune systems, according to AIDS.gov.
“We can win this fight,” Obama said. “We just have to keep at it, steady, persistent – today, tomorrow, every day until we get to zero.”