December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day: U.S. Tradition of Leadership in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

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For the first time since the discovery of HIV more than 30 years ago, scientists are hopeful that a new vaccine will be a breakthrough in the battle against this deadly virus.

Last week, South Africa launched a first major clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against the HIV virus. The new trial is being conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in cooperation with local groups.

“If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” said Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

U.S. Leadership in the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS

One of the hallmarks of U.S. global engagement over the last decade has been American leadership in the fight against this disease. When President George W. Bush launched his signature plan in 2003 to combat HIV/AIDS overseas, it marked the start of our country’s effort to save more than 11 million lives.

As of September 2016, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has achieved some incredible outcomes:

  • Supported lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for more than 11.5 million people
  • Supported HIV counseling and testing for more than 74.3 million people in FY 2016, including 11.5 million pregnant women with HIV testing and counseling
  • Provided care and support to more than 6.2 million orphans and vulnerable children and their families in FY 2016
  • Reached more than 1 million adolescent girls and young women through the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) Initiative

The Opportunity to Strengthen America’s Commitment

The next Administration and Congress will inherit a strong bipartisan legacy of U.S. global leadership on HIV/AIDS treatment. How might President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence build upon these life-saving programs?

When asked whether or not he would commit to doubling the number of people receiving HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide through the PEPFAR, President-elect Trump said, “I believe so strongly in that and we’re going to lead the way.”

As a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Vice President-elect Pence played a leadership role in supporting programs to fund the U.S. response to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis – and voted for PEPFAR in 2003 and 2008. He lauded the bill, saying, “I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world in confronting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.” He added that the threat posed by HIV/AIDS “to our security is also real” and that it could “undermine the stability of nations throughout the third world, leaving behind collapsing economies and tragedy and desperation – a breeding ground for extremist violence.”

American leadership is vital to helping achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation. By saving lives, preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and promoting global health, the U.S. is working to build a better, safer world.

For more information about World AIDS Day, visit www.worldaidsday.org.
Image: Source, IAVI