Barack Obama on Aids: 'We can beat this disease'

 

Washington

President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal today for significantly
increasing access to life-saving Aids drugs for people in the U.S. and
around the world, as he announced a renewed American commitment to
ending a pandemic that has killed 30 million people.

"We can beat this disease," Obama declared during a World AIDS Day event in Washington. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also participated via satellite.

Obama pledged US support to help 6 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus get access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, increasing the original U.S. goal by 2 million. And he announced plans to boost spending on HIV treatment in the US by $50 million.

"The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America," he said. "There are communities in this country being devastated still by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter."

As part of Obama's new overseas initiatives, the US will also aim to get antiretroviral drugs to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children; distribute more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world in the next two years; and fund 4.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa over the next two years. Research shows circumcisions reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by more than 60 percent.

The new global goals build on the work of the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, which focuses on prevention, treatment and support programs in 15 countries hit hardest by the AIDS pandemic, 12 of them in Africa. Bush launched the $15 billion plan in 2003, and in 2008, Congress tripled the budget to $48 billion over five years.

Obama praised Bush for his leadership on Aids relief, saying the program will be one of the former president's greatest legacies.

"That program — more ambitious than even leading advocates thought was possible at the time — has saved thousands and thousands and thousands of lives, spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions," Obama said. "And we are proud that we have the opportunity to carry that work forward."

Despite Obama's more ambitious goals, the relief program's budget is not expected to increase. Instead officials said the expanded targets would be funded through savings achieved by making the program more efficient and cutting the costs of treatment.

The president urged other wealthy nations to fulfill their financial pledges to a global fund to fight HIV and Aids, and jabbed those who have not contributed money.

"Countries that haven't made a pledge need to do so," he said. "That includes China and other major economies that are now able to step up as major donors."

The HIV virus has infected an estimated 60 million people worldwide since the deadly pandemic began 30 years ago. More than 33 million people are currently living with the virus.

While the failure to find an effective HIV vaccine continues to frustrate the medical community, experts say scientific research in recent years has led to substantial progress in preventing and treating the virus.

Obama ordered his staff to reevaluate both their international and domestic approaches to HIV and Aids this summer after being briefed on the scientific advancements.

Members of both parties praised the new initiatives and commended Democratic and Republican leaders for coming together.

"Here's what we can do when we work together. We've got leaders of both political parties standing behind something that works," said Gayle Smith, Obama's senior director for development and democracy at the National Security Council.

Tony Fratto, a former Bush spokesman, urged both parties to avoid making the fight against Aids a political issue.

"The only way to undermine this historic undertaking is if it becomes a partisan issue," he said. "The reasons a Barack Obama and a George W. Bush can support America's leading role in addressing this disease may be very different, but what's important is they've sought the same goal."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot