Advocacy groups are praising Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that an AIDS-free generation is within reach. Mrs. Clinton spoke Tuesday at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Mitchell Warren called the Secretary of State’s remarks “the first step in an ambitious vision for ending the global AIDS epidemic.”
He said, “Ending AIDS has been a dream really since it began. And people have talked about a world without AIDS, imagining a world without AIDS. In the last year and a half, the science has begun to tell us that that’s not a dream. That it’s scientifically possible.”
After setbacks and discouraging results in vaccine trials, researchers have proven an AIDS vaccine is possible. There have also been breakthroughs in microbicide gels to block HIV infection. And the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection has been successful in recent studies.
Three pronged strategy
Warren, head of AVAC, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said Secretary Clinton’s comments committed the United States to helping achieve an AIDS-free generation worldwide.
“For the first time it became government policy. So we’ve gone from a dream to a scientific basis to be able to talk about the end of AIDS and yesterday. Secretary Clinton putting squarely the U.S. government behind the ability to end the epidemic,” he said.
Mrs. Clinton announced the U.S. would commit an additional $60 million to boost a three-pronged strategy. She called on other donor countries to do the same. That strategy includes scaling up the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, medical male circumcision and antiretroviral treatment.
Big plans, little money
The secretary of state’s call comes at a time when many countries, including the United States, are looking for ways to cut their budgets.
“We can do all three of those things with our existing resources, not enough to do it everywhere in short order. But if we align our resources that are currently available to those three priorities first and foremost, I think we can do a great deal more in ushering in the end of the epidemic,” he said.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is credited with helping put millions of people on treatment. The program was launched by President George W. Bush and continues under President Obama.
The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition will release its annual report later this month, before World AIDS Day on December 1st. It will lay out a short, medium and long-term strategy for the epidemic.
“This is perhaps the best time, right now, 2011, even in the midst of great financial challenge, this is the best time to scale up our investments and to make those investments more strategic. We need science to inform our policies and our programs. And if we follow that evidence, I believe we will get to en end of the epidemic much sooner than we would have ever imagined even a year ago,” warren said.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is now more than 30 years old. More than 30 million people are living with the disease, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Tens of millions of others have died from the disease.