President Obama pledged “the beginning of the end of AIDS” at George Washington University during an event commemorating, honoring, and celebrating all the United States and the global health community have done in the fight against AIDS. The Presidents speech marked the start of World AIDS Day 2011. He was joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush via Satellite, Bono from U2, Alicia Keyes, and Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent.
Obama called for renewed action to treat the virus and to stop it from spreading. “We are winning this fight. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot,” he said during his speech, “We just have to keep at it, steady, persistent, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero.”
HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic. It has been estimated that 34 million people were diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 2010. 1.2 million of those diagnosed were in the United States.
According to the latest U.N. Report, 22.9 million people in Sub-Sahara Africa are living with HIV and nearly half of the 4.8 million Asians in India are living with the virus. While the numbers are decreasing globally through education and prevention projects, the number in the U.S. has been holding steady.
President Obama noted that, “there are communities in this country being devastated 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.”
During the World AIDS Day event at George Washington University, Obama urged congress to “keep working together” and praised former President George W. Bush for his leadership in the international fight against AIDS. He thanked Bush for his, “bold leadership on this issue,” calling Bush’s actions in the fight on AIDS one of his “greatest legacies.”
The Obama administration has pledged $50 million in new money to help in the fight against AIDS. $15 million will go to the Ryan White Program, which funds clinics, and $35 million will go to state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. The administration has also laid out new goals and targets that they want to meet by 2013 — help six million people get treatment and provide more than 1.5 million anti-viral drugs to HIV-positive women to prevent the transfer of the virus to their unborn babies.
“We can beat this disease,” Obama remarked. He added, “At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and across presidents and it shows that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics. So we need to carry that spirit forward.”