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November 30, 2011

Obama on AIDS: 'We Can Beat This Disease'

President Barack Obama has set new goals and new commitments in the fight against AIDS.  The president pledged to make anti-AIDS drugs available to more people in America and around the world.

At a World AIDS Day event in Washington, President Barack Obama said the world can beat the disease.

The president pledged that the United States will help an additional two million people in hard-hit countries get access to anti-retroviral drugs by the end of 2013.  “And today we are setting a new target of helping six million people get treatment by the end of 2013,” he said.

Obama also announced plans to increase spending on HIV treatment in the United States by $50 million.

The president said the rate of new HIV infections is dropping elsewhere in the world, but it remains steady in the United States and more work is needed.

“This fight is not over.  Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now.  Not for the Americans who are infected every day.  This fight is not over for them, it is not over for their families.  And as a consequence, it cannot be over for anybody in this room.  And it certainly is not over for your president,” Obama stated.

The president also called for countries that have committed to the Global Fund to give the money they promised.  He also called for countries that have not pledged, specifically China, to do so.

Former President George W. Bush also took part in the event, by a video link from Tanzania, where he is working on an initiative to fight cervical cancer in women with HIV.

During his presidency, Bush enacted the PEPFAR program, in which the United States spent $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS globally.

The former president also called for wealthy nations to contribute more to the fight against AIDS, despite their economic problems.

“And when you go through a budgetary struggle, it seems like to me the best thing to do is to set priorities, and to focus on that which is effective.  There is nothing more effective than PEPFAR,” Bush said.

PEPFAR is credited with making anti-retrovirals widely available and saving millions of lives.

Bush’s predecessor, former President Bill Clinton, also took part in the World AIDS Day event.