Today, there are 35.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including 1.1 million in the United States and 3.3 million children worldwide. In recent years, the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined, the rate of new infections has been reduced, and the availability of lifesaving treatments has increased. Still, 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2012 and we have much work to do before treatment and care are available to all in need.
This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.” President Obama and the United States are answering this call in a manner that transcends partisan politics and that stretches across all sectors of American society. Ten years ago, President George W. Bush, backed by a strong coalition in Congress, created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2011 President Obama established a series of ambitious goals for PEPFAR, including a commitment to increase by fifty percent the number of HIV-positive people receiving lifesaving treatment. We are able to announce today that we have exceeded this goal. PEPFAR is now providing treatment to 6.7 million people, an increase of seventy-one percent in just two years. PEPFAR has also prevented HIV from blighting the birth of more than one million babies; one million infants who would have been born with the virus are instead AIDS-free. The United States remains by far the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This year, we are challenging the world by offering to contribute $1 to the Fund for every $2 made available by other donors.
The United States is determined to continue leading in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but we cannot succeed alone. The Global Fund and other initiatives are supported by a vast network that includes philanthropists, the business community, health care professionals, civil society, and governments both in and outside the regions of greatest risk. Our collective efforts are informed by the knowledge that millions of lives are at stake; by the understanding that comprehensive measures are needed to make further progress; by a commitment to end the bigotry, ignorance, sexual violence, and economic inequities that lead to new infections; and by the conviction that defeating AIDS is not only a public health necessity, but also a human rights imperative.
Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the disease has claimed more than 36 million lives. For a time, we felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge. But slowly – too slowly – we have developed the tools, the knowhow, and the degree of international cooperation necessary to stem the tide. Our commitment now – our goal on World AIDS Day 2013 – is to move relentlessly toward achieving an AIDS-free generation. Success will demand an enormous commitment from us all, but achieving this goal is within our reach.
- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN