Obama Promises to Step Up AIDS Fight

U.S. President Barack Obama says the country will step up its fight against HIV and AIDS. Photo by: NASA / CC BY-NC NASACC BY-NC

The U.S. will redouble its efforts to address AIDS and HIV through its Global Health Initiative, according to President Barack Obama, whose administration has been under fire for its stance on AIDS funding and other related issues.

Obama made the pledge in a video message to the closing session of the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, Reuters says. The president noted that despite the tough fiscal environment that the U.S. is currently facing, the country remains committed to the global effort to eradicate AIDS.

Meanwhile, a group of AIDS activists has filed a complaint against the U.S., accusing the country of taking advantage of its trade policies to force other countries to adopt intellectual property measures that escalate the costs of medicines.

The group, which includes activists from the U.S., Asia, Africa and Latin America, said that this action by the U.S. violates human rights.

“These policies directly contradict the promises President Obama made while he was a presidential candidate, when he committed to ‘break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving drugs’ and pledged support for ‘the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs,’” the activists said according to Periodico.

The complaint, which was filed before the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to health, is the latest AIDS-related blow to the U.S.

The Obama administration’s announcement of an additional USD366 million worth of funds to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in 2010 was heavily panned.

Critics, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and Anand Reddi, a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who serves on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s board of directors, noted that the amount was well below Obama’s campaign promise to provide PEPFAR with USD1 billion per year.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby both came forward in defense of Obama’s AIDS funding decision.

“I think it has been frustrating to be presented as a non-contributor. The administration and the president have been hurt by the characterization that the U.S. has not stepped up to the plate and taken this commitment seriously in all arenas,” Goosby said, according to the Guardian.

In his speech before conference delegates, Clinton argued that despite the global economic recession, Obama has always tried to follow through with his commitments.

“Even his worst critics admit that he tries to keep his commitments, that’s why they don’t like him,” Clinton said.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.