Obama Makes Pledge to End AIDS Worldwide
President Barack Obama announced Thursday a renewed American commitment to ending AIDS domestically and worldwide.
AIDS is a pandemic that has killed 30 million people around the world and Obama pledged to increase access to life-saving AIDS drugs.
"We can beat this disease," Obama declared during a World AIDS Day event in Washington. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also participated via satellite.
The pledge sets out to help 6 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus to receive antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013. This pledge is a vast increase from the previous goal of 2 million. Domestically, Obama also revealed plans to boost spending on HIV treatment by $50 million.
"The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America," he said. "There are communities in this country being devastated still 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 also pledged to provide 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women antiretroviral drugs; distribute more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world in the next two years; and fund 4.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa over the next two years. Research has shown circumcisions reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by more than 60 percent.
Obama praised Bush for his leadership on AIDS relief, saying the programs in 2003 and 2008 will be one of the former president's greatest legacies.
"That program - more ambitious than even leading advocates thought was possible at the time - has saved thousands and thousands and thousands of lives, spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions," Obama said. "And we are proud that we have the opportunity to carry that work forward."
The president challenged other wealthy nations to contribute to the global fight to end AIDS.
"Countries that haven't made a pledge need to do so," he said. "That includes China and other major economies that are now able to step up as major donors."
The HIV virus has infected an estimated 60 million people worldwide since the deadly pandemic began 30 years ago. More than 33 million people are currently living with the virus. There is still no effective HIV vaccine, but scientific research in recent years has led to substantial progress in preventing and treating the virus.
Members of both parties praised the new initiatives and commended Democratic and Republican leaders for coming together.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.