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World AIDs Day: President Obama renews commitment to HIV research

From Politico by Jennifer Epstein:

President Barack Obama heralded the “beginning of the end of AIDS” on Thursday, celebrating all that the United States and the global health community have done to fight the virus but calling for renewed action to treat it and stop it from spreading.

“We are winning this fight. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot,” he said at George Washington University just blocks from the White House, at an event that also included remarks from former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as U2 frontman Bono.

“We just have to keep at it, steady, persistent, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero,” Obama said. “And as long as I have the honor of being your president, that’s what this administration is going to do. That’s my pledge — my commitment — to you. And that has to be our promise to each other — because we have come so far; we have saved so many lives. We might as well finish the fight.”

Millions of people around the world — including 1.2 million in the United States — are still HIV-positive. While the annual rate of infection is falling internationally, Obama noted that in America it has “been holding steady for over a decade” and that “there are communities in this country being devastated by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter.”

Obama announced $50 million in new money for domestic treatment plans, including $15 million for the Ryan White Program, which funds clinics, and $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. He also called on state governments, drug companies and foundations “to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.”

While the administration is ramping up efforts to treat Americans with HIV and AIDS, Obama said it’s important to keep in mind that “this is a global fight, one that America must continue to lead” by funding global health programs.

The administration, Obama said to a standing ovation, has set a new target of helping six million people around the world get treatment by the end of 2013 — up 2 million from the U.S. government’s original goal. The administration also is aiming to provide antiretroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive women to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies.

Obama urged Congress to “keep working together, keep the commitments you’ve made intact” to continue funding domestic and global AIDS programs.

“At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and across presidents,” he said. “And it shows that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics. So we need to carry that spirit forward.”

Read the complete article here.

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