(Updates with international AIDS conference in sixth paragraph.)
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama, marking World AIDS Day, called on Congress, other countries, drug companies and state governments to “renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic once and for all.”
“Make no mistake, we are going to win this fight -- but the fight is not over, not by a long shot,” Obama said today at an event for the ONE Campaign and Red, two groups battling the disease.
Obama was joined by Bono, lead singer of U2 and co-founder of ONE and Red, and former U.S. President George W. Bush, along with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania, through live video teleconference.
Obama, speaking at George Washington University in the nation’s capital, announced an additional $15 million of funding for a program that supports HIV medical clinics across the U.S., and an additional $35 million for state AIDS drug assistance programs.
“At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and across presidencies,” Obama said. “It shows that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics.”
The U.S. will host the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington in July, as more than 25,000 scientists and advocates gather to discuss new research, best practices and the most effective policies to abolish the disease.
Bush, in his remarks, said World AIDS Day is a time “to recommit ourselves” to eradicating the disease.
The number of people living with HIV worldwide climbed to 34 million from 32.9 million in 2009, three United Nations agencies said in a report yesterday. The report also said 20 times as many people are being treated with antiretroviral drugs than in 2002.
“Major progress has been made in the last 10 years in the fight against global AIDS,” Kimberly Hunter, a spokeswoman for the One advocacy group, said in a statement. “If the world comes together over the next few years, we could finally see the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic.”
That will happen only if governments and private groups make a more aggressive push, she said.
Even with progress around the world, the infection rate in the U.S. “has been holding steady for over a decade,” Obama said.
“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,” Obama said. “When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more.”
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, causes AIDS. The virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening infections and cancers.
The virus can be spread by sexual contact, blood transfusions, needle sharing and from pregnant mother to her fetus or a nursing mother through her breast milk.
Bush in 2003 led a commitment to tackle the disease on a global scale and doubling funding to $15 billion over five by 2008. Obama has continued the effort, asking Congress for almost $7 billion in fiscal 2011, up 1.8 percent from fiscal 2010.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech Nov. 8, announced an additional $60 million commitment to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as Pepfar, aimed at parts of four countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Creating an AIDS-free generation has never been a policy priority for the United States government -- until today,” Clinton said at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Sheila Nix, executive director of ONE, said in response that Clinton’s pledge is a “solid step” but “we need to see this vision translated into a bold, new global plan of action.”
Michael Elliott, president and chief executive of the ONE campaign and Deborah Dugan, chief executive of Red called on the Obama administration on Oct. 19 to “set specific and measurable goals with deadlines.”
They include an AIDS-free generation by 2015, with no child being born with the HIV virus by 2015; ensuring 15 million HIV- positive people are on treatment by 2015 and a “drastic reduction” in the rate of HIV infections by 2015.
--With assistance from Andrea Gerlin in London and Nicole Gaouette in Washington. Editors: Bob Drummond, Justin Blum
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