We stand at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and working together, we can realize our historic opportunity to bring that fight to an end,” Obama said in a proclamation to mark World AIDS Day on Saturday.
Some 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and despite a decline in new infections over the last decade, 2.5 million people were infected last year.
Given those staggering figures, what does an AIDS-free generation mean? That virtually no babies are born infected, young people have a much lower risk than today of becoming infected, and that people who already have HIV would receive life-saving treatment.
That last step is key: Treating people early in their infection, before they get sick, not only helps them survive but also dramatically cuts the chances that they’ll infect others. Yet only about 8 million HIV patients in developing countries are getting treatment. The United Nations aims to have 15 million treated by 2015.
Other important steps include: Treating more pregnant women, and keeping them on treatment after their babies are born; increasing male circumcision to lower men’s risk of heterosexual infection; increasing access to both male and female condoms; and more HIV testing.
The world spent $16.8 billion fighting AIDS in poor countries last year. The U.S. government is the leading donor, spending about $5.6 billion.
The blueprint lays out the stark choices we have: To stick with the baseline and see an epidemic flatline or grow, or ramp up” to continue progress, said Chris Collins of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
His group has estimated that more than 276,000 people would miss out on HIV treatment if U.S. dollars for the global AIDS fight are part of across-the-board spending cuts set to begin in January.
Thursday’s report also urges targeting the populations at highest risk, including gay men, injecting drug users and sex workers, especially in countries where stigma and discrimination has denied them access to HIV prevention services.
“We have to go where the virus is,” Clinton said.