“This is a global fight, and it’s one that America must continue to lead… Looking back at the history of HIV/AIDS, you’ll see that no other country has done more than this country, and that’s testament to our leadership as a country. But we can’t be complacent.”
--President Obama, December 1, 2011
As the 19th International AIDS Conference comes to the U.S. for the first time since 1990, thanks to bipartisan action by Presidents Obama and Bush and the Congress to lift the ban on people living with HIV entering the country, we are at a tipping point in the fight against AIDS. As the largest global donor, we see an AIDS-free generation in sight. As President Obama said on World AIDS Day, we will win this fight.
The Obama Administration is taking action to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS by strengthening the scientific investments that have revolutionized prevention and care for people living with HIV. We are focusing on results to save as many lives as possible. We are strengthening the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund for greater impact and sustainability.
Creating an AIDS-Free Generation
Under the Obama Administration, PEPFAR has made unprecedented progress, building on the solid foundation laid by the Bush Administration. Today, PEPFAR is treating nearly four and a half million people, and we are on track to meet President Obama’s World AIDS Day commitment to reach six million people with treatment by the end of 2013. In 2011 alone, more than 40 million people received HIV testing and counseling services, including 9.8 million pregnant women – an 88% increase since 2008.
To create an AIDS-free Generation, the President has emphasized the need for shared responsibility – among partner countries, donor nations and multilateral organizations. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, where our donations leverage funds from other donors, multiplying the impact beyond what U.S. dollars could do alone. We have led an urgent effort to ensure the Fund’s resources are effectively and efficiently spent. PEPFAR and the Global Fund are highly interdependent – together supporting over 70% of all persons on treatment worldwide in 2011. That’s why President Obama made an historic commitment of $4 billion to the Fund over three years.
Faith-based organizations and civil society are critical partners in the effort to create an AIDS-free Generation. Public-private partnerships will also continue to play an important role in PEPFAR’s response, expanding the total pool of resources available. Creating an AIDS-free Generation will only be achieved through a shared responsibility of all committed to the fight.
American Leadership in Action
As we begin to see the beginning of the end of AIDS, we reflect upon how far we’ve come in the fight against this pandemic. In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first cases of AIDS. Since that initial discovery, the U.S. government has led a global response based on scientific research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other U.S. government agencies. One of the most notable developments was the introduction of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the mid-1990s, which helped HIV-infected patients manage their disease. However, low- and middle-income countries were devastated by the pandemic. By 1999, an estimated 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV, with more than 20 million in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, one out of three adults was HIV-positive.
It was clear that leadership was needed. In 2001, with U.S. leadership, the United Nations Security Council declared the AIDS epidemic a security issue. In 2002, the U.S. government made the founding contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2003, President George W. Bush announced a transformative program – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR’s initial focus was on providing an emergency response to: prevent new HIV infections; provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment; and provide compassionate care and support for those infected and affected by the disease, including orphans and vulnerable children.
PEPFAR has always been the beneficiary of bipartisan support. During its first five years, Congress appropriated more than $18 billion for PEPFAR. As of 2012, more than $37 billion has been provided for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs. Especially since Congress reauthorized it in 2008, PEPFAR has focused on the transition from an emergency response to one of sustainability and accountability – stressing the importance of country ownership and leadership of each nation’s response to its own epidemic.
The Obama Administration remains steadfast in its commitment to people living with, or affected by, HIV throughout the world. The next phase of PEPFAR will focus on translating recent scientific advances into programmatic efforts to save even more lives. While we still have work cut out for us, by building on the successes and impact of PEPFAR; advancing country ownership; and promoting shared responsibility, together we will build a healthier, more secure world.