U.S. President Barack Obama gave AIDS advocates a flicker of hope when he pledged $50 million for the fight against the deadly disease. The pledge seemed like a gift to AIDS in light of World AIDS Day, but certainly not in the global sense — all of the money is earmarked for HIV and AIDS programs in the United States.
Obama announced to seek $15 million for the Ryan White program — which supports HIV clinics in the United States — and $35 million for state AIDS drug assistance programs on World AIDS Day. He also asked state governments, drug companies and foundations to do their part in getting Americans have access to “all the life-saving treatments.”
“The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it’s not going down here in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade,” he said. “So 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’s not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can’t be over for anybody in this room – and it certainly isn’t over for your President.”
But Obama noted the achievements of his administration in the global fight against the AIDS pandemic. He said 4 million people worldwide are already on anti-retroviral treatment, and the United States has provided 600,000 HIV-positive mothers access to the drugs, which in turn makes 200,000 babies born HIV-free. He then announced his administration’s new goal of getting more than 1.5 million HIV-positive mothers on ARVs and 6 million people on treatment by 2013 — an additional 2 million from the government’s original target, which got him a standing ovation.
But while the President’s announcements received positive remarks from Médecins Sans Frontières and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the question remains on how he would be able to deliver on his goals via The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
PEPFAR funding has been declining steadily since 2008, the HealthAffairs Blog reports. Further, the U.S. foreign aid budget remains under threat. Until the issue of funding gets clear answers, the Obama administration’s goals will remain just that — goals.
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