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Clinton Cites AIDS as Defining Health Challenge of Today
(U.S. officials focus on World AIDS Day at White House event)

By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton highlighted the continued threat HIV/AIDS poses to the world in a special event at the White House, calling HIV/AIDS “the defining health challenge of our time.”

Speaking November 30 with senior administration officials responsible for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, Clinton said, “We are gathered on the eve of World AIDS Day to renew and recommit ourselves” to helping the 33 million people worldwide afflicted with the disease that still has no known cure.

World AIDS Day was adopted by 140 countries in 1988. It is commemorated every December 1 to raise awareness about the pandemic that has killed more than 25 million people since it began in 1981.

Clinton used the White House event to mention a new five-year global AIDS strategy that will be unveiled later in the week and to announce that Washington will host the 2012 International AIDS Conference since the ban on people with AIDS entering the country had been lifted by President Obama.

“We have made progress” against the disease, Clinton said, “but face an unending pandemic. And we have to address it through a series of broad and cross-cutting global partnerships and a whole-of-government approach, and that is exactly what we are attempting to do.”

Progress made in the last two decades, Clinton said, includes: “Access to anti-retroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries has risen ten-fold in the last five years. New HIV infections have fallen by 17 percent over the last eight years. And much of that progress has been due to the concerted efforts of the United States government and our [international] partners.”

President Obama touched on the U.S. commitment to the battle against AIDS in a speech he gave in Ghana ( ) in July, where he said, “We will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS … because in the 21st century we are called to act by our conscience but also by our common interest.”

Clinton emphasized Obama’s commitment, saying he is “dedicated to enhancing America’s leadership in the fight against global AIDS, with PEPFAR [the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] serving as the cornerstone of our global health initiative to promote better and more sustainable health outcomes.”

Dr. Eric Goosby, U.S. global AIDS coordinator and administrator of PEPFAR, also spoke at the White House. He referred to the new global AIDS strategy his office will announce later in the week.

“As we expand our HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts,” Goosby said, “we need to engage with our fellow international and multilateral partners to create a shared vision of a global response to this global responsibility.”

Goosby said PEPFAR’s five-year strategy “will focus on sustainable responses — programs that are country-owned and country-driven. Programs that condemn stigma and discrimination, and provide services to all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or HIV status. Programs that work with governments, like Uganda, to address barriers to prevention.”

While the American people can be proud of the work that is taking place, Goosby said, he emphasized that the global AIDS emergency is not over. “Countries still struggle with vast unmet need. We need to work harder — and smarter — than ever before, laying a foundation that countries can build on for the long term,” he said.

Since PEPFAR was established in 2003, it has provided close to $25 billion to treat AIDS victims in 31 nations. Eighty percent of the funds are devoted to sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 27 million of the world’s 33 million AIDS cases.

Representative Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, did not attend the event but said in a statement: “World AIDS Day provides an annual occasion to focus our thoughts on the pandemic, but every day it affects women around the globe in disproportionate numbers.”

The lawmaker said, “The United States has been the global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS with generous financial support. We should also lead the way in calling attention to the plight of women affected by this disease.”

Berman is co-author of the law Congress passed in July 2008 expanding PEPFAR for five years, with funding authorized at $48 billion. Some $9 billion of that amount will go toward combating malaria and tuberculosis, diseases that when coupled with AIDS have been the scourge of sub-Saharan Africa.

The law also calls for a specific strategy to prevent HIV infections in women and to end the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site:
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