“So make no mistake, we are winning this fight. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot.” -- President Barack Obama
This morning, ONE and (RED) marked World AIDS Day as “the beginning of the end of AIDS” at a star-studded event at George Washington University. President Barack Obama, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bono and Alicia Keys joined together to shine a light on the progress the world has made in the fight against AIDS.
While the tone was celebratory in a “how far we’ve come” kind of way, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who moderated the event, opened with a somber reminder of the impact the AIDS pandemic has had on the world.
“Thirty years and 30 million funerals,” Gupta said. While we can’t change our past, he emphasized that “today we look forward to a hopeful future.”
Joining the event via satellite from Tanzania with President Bush, President Kikwete thanked the United States for their longtime generosity in the fight against AIDS in his home country. Bush praised Tanzania for making great progress and credited the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for being instrumental in saving hundreds of thousands of lives globally. He pushed for more funding for PEPFAR and a renewed commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic.
“I understand we’re in tight budget times,” Bush said, “so we should focus on that which is effective, PEPFAR.”
President Obama thanked Bush for his “bold leadership” and opened his remarks reminding the world of the remarkable progress we have made against a disease that was once considered a death sentence.
“Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died from AIDS – some of you here today – are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And, because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections, and deaths, is declining.”
Obama then set out a bold new plan for PEPFAR to scale up access to ARV treatment to an additional two million people, increasing the reach of the program by 50 percent by the end of 2013. PEPFAR will also focus on expanding prevention interventions that saves lives and saves money, including medical male circumcision, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and condom distribution.
In this challenging global economy, these increases in coverage are possible because PEPFAR programs are becoming smarter and more efficient about how they spend limited resources.
The president also urged all countries to meet their commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a global health leader with a strong track record of delivering value for money and saving lives in hard-to-reach places.
Bill and Melinda Gates praised the Obama administration and the bipartisan coalition in Congress that supports closing the gap in access to ARV treatment and HIV prevention programs, and applauded the president’s support of the Global Fund.
Take a break today and watch this inspiring World AIDS Day event.