December 1, 2011 (WASHINGTON) - President Barack Obama renewed U.S. leadership in combating the AIDS pandemic Thursday - World AIDS Day - pledging to put 2 million more people on life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) globally in the next two years, bringing the total to 6 million on treatment by 2013 through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. They plan to prioritize treatment for 1.5 million HIV-infected pregnant women, in order to prevent them from passing the virus on to their children.
Obama spoke at an event hosted by the One Campaign Thursday morning, along with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and musical artists Bono and Alicia Keys. The expanded effort will not require an increase in federal spending, but rather utilize cost savings achieved through program efficiencies, including cutting the cost of treatment.
"Now, as we go forward, we need to keep refining our strategy so that we're saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention," Obama said. "That's why, as a matter of policy, we're now investing in what works, from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior."
Through PEPFAR, launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush, the U.S. has dedicated $63 billion to supporting international efforts to stem HIV transmission and treat those who are infected. Obama proudly announced that as of September PEPFAR has successfully put approximately 4 million people on ART globally.
"This means a lifeline to millions of men, women and children and the promise of reducing HIV incidence in combination with other evidence-based interventions," said Sten Vermund, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Global Health at Vanderbilt University and principal investigator of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). He was referring to the recent HPTN 052 study results, which demonstrated that putting an HIV-infected person on early antiretroviral therapy can reduce the chances of infecting their uninfected sexual partners by 96 percent. The study also found that early treatment protected the health of those with HIV-infection by preventing acquisition of tuberculosis (TB), the leading killer of people living with HIV world-wide.
"We are thankful for President Obama's much-needed leadership. It is gratifying and hopeful to see such a quick and substantive response to the science generated by U.S.-funded research," said Kenneth H. Mayer, MD, the director of HIV Prevention Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, medical research director at Fenway Health and co-chair of the Center for Global Health Policy. "Expanding access to treatment is lifesaving and one potent mechanism to arrest the epidemic and ultimately stop it in its tracks."
The news is especially encouraging given financial troubles announced by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has stated that due to countries backing out of their funding commitments to the Global Fund along with other fiscal challenges, it will be unable to make new grants until 2014.
"Countries that have committed to the Global Fund need to give the money that they promised," Obama said in his speech, adding that countries that have yet to make a pledge need to do so, including countries that might have been Fund recipients in the past that now are in a position transition to donors.
"We hope that the President's leadership today will inspire other government leaders to step up to the plate and join the U.S. in responding to the moral imperative and the science so that we can begin to end AIDS," said Carol Dukes Hamilton, MD, senior scientist at FHI-360, and co-chair of the Center for Global Health Policy. "Increasing our commitment to treating those with HIV/AIDS also presents an opportunity to change the course of the global TB epidemic, as ART reduces their risk of developing TB by two-thirds."
Obama also announced a $15 million investment into the Ryan White domestic HIV/AIDS program, and an additional $35 million boost to the states' AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.
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The Center for Global Health Policy
The Center for Global Health Policy, established by the Infectious Diseases Society of America's Education & Research
Foundation in 2008, supports and promotes U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis around the world. The Center provides
scientific and policy information to U.S. policymakers, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the news media,
linking decision-makers to the latest evidence-based input and guidance from physician/scientists and other professionals
from both developing and developed countries. For more information visit www.idsaglobalhealth.org.
Reproduced with permission - "Center for Global Health Policy "
Center for Global Health Policy