World AIDS Day

US leaders celebrate research progress

On December 1, President Obama celebrated World AIDS Day by vowing to step up the role of the United States in the fight against the disease. At an event where former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush joined him by satellite, he announced several new commitments to help drive the global effort to fight HIV/AIDS as he stressed his belief that the world will soon achieve an AIDS-free generation. Science and research delivered many of the tools that Obama lauded for their vital role in the fight to end this epidemic. Continued US support for research and development efforts, to both scale up the tools that are working and to identify new prevention and treatment tools, is critical if the end of AIDS is to become a reality.

Among the commitments to address HIV/AIDS, President Obama pledged to provide more than six million people with antiretroviral treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an initiative launched by President George W. Bush that has seen strong bipartisan support since its inception. President Obama also pledged to provide more than 1.5 million pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease, provide support for voluntary medical male circumcision, distribute more than one billion condoms, and stand by the United States’ pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

President Obama credited a historical commitment from the United States to developing these prevention and treatment options as a critical part of this success.
“Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died, some of whom are here today, are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections and deaths is declining,” said President Obama.

Other leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS also stressed the role of science in helping to save lives around the world and bring the global community closer to ending this pandemic.

“Some of the groundbreaking work is easy to pinpoint now. For instance, as we approach World AIDS Day, it is heartening to report on exciting advances in AIDS vaccine research and the development of more than two dozen drugs in the last 15 years to fight the virus, turning the disease from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness,” Wendy Taylor, Senior Advisor of Innovative Finance and Public Private Partnerships at the US Agency for International Development, and David Cook, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GHTC Member the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill’s "Congress Blog."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set the stage for the President’s announcement when she delivered a speech at the National Institutes for Health earlier this month. In her address, Secretary Clinton emphasized the important role that research and development has played in helping the world reach this historic opportunity to end the pandemic. She stressed the need to maintain strong US support for the research and science that will help the globe reach the finish line in the fight against AIDS. President Obama echoed Secretary Clinton’s support for the science that has led to these lifesaving tools.

“Now, as we go forward, we’ve got to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention. That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works—from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior,” said President Obama.
The President credited the US with doing more throughout the past three decades than any other country in the world and emphasized that overwhelming bipartisan support that enabled the US to achieve so much. As he vowed that the US will continue to lead this effort, he called on the global community to partner with the US in order to reach the finish line in the fight against AIDS.

“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,” said Obama.

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