U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday touted U.S. efforts at fighting AIDS amid charges that the U.S. is lagging behind on combating the pandemic.
“So many of the people around the world have not been satisfied that we’ve done enough,” she told a crowd of thousands at the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.
“But I am here” to fight for “a generation that is free of AIDS,” she said.
Indeed, the U.S. has been charged with falling behind in progress on cutting the number of new HIV infections, as the rate has remained stable at around 50,000 new cases per year since the 1990s while other countries — including many Southern African countries — have significantly cut the rate over the same time period.
The U.S. aims to overcome “one of the biggest hurdles” in combating AIDS: When women are diagnosed with HIV, they are often referred to far-away clinics for treatment.
“As a result too many women never start treatment,” she said, announcing that the U.S. would invest an additional 80 million U.S. dollars to fill that gap.
Clinton also reiterated the U.S. commitment to eliminating mother-to-child transmission by 2015.
U.S. President Barack Obama is building on the legacy of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which was started by former president George W. Bush, shifting out of emergency mode to “sustainable health systems,” she said.
Clinton noted that much progress worldwide has been made in fighting the disease since the last time the conference was held in the U.S. in 1990. At that time, there was little that could be done medically about the disease. “That has changed” she said, adding that AIDS is no longer a death sentence with the advent of new life-saving drugs and programs.
“The ability to treat … the disease has advanced,” she said. “Yes AIDS is still incurable, but it no longer has to be a death sentence.”
The Secretary highlighted Obama’s announcement on World AIDS Day in December that his administration is committed reaching six million people globally with life-saving treatment.
The U.S. is focusing on “combination” prevention, with a strategy that focuses on condoms, treatment as prevention and stopping the transmission of HIV from mother to child among other goals.
Making progress on treatment and prevention, the U.S. has added funding for 600,000 more people since September and is rapidly closing in on a national goal of six million by the end of next year.
She also announced tens of millions of dollars of new investments to reach key populations impacted by the disease.
The International AIDS Conference is the largest gathering of professionals working in the field of HIV, including people living with HIV and other leaders in the HIV response. It plays a fundamental role in shaping the global response to HIV and in keeping HIV and AIDS on the international political agenda.
This week, over 20,000 delegates from all over the world will gather at the U.S. capital, participating in a series of sessions, panels and community-led discussions that focus on mobilizing governments and communities to achieve the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
The first International AIDS Conference occurred in Atlanta, Georgia in 1985, and it was held in San Francisco in 1990. The conference was supposed to be held two years later in Boston, but the global research community refused to return to the United States because of its travel ban on HIV positive people. This ban was lifted by the Obama Administration in 2009.