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World AIDS day: progress, and farther to go

World AIDS day: progress, and farther to go

President Obama provided a new target to fight AIDS: treatment to 6 million people worldwide by 2013.

Reuters reports:

Obama also challenged other nations to boost their commitments to fund treatment and called on China to “step up” as a major donor in the effort to expand access to AIDS drugs.

“We can beat this disease. We can win this fight. We just have to keep at it, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero,” Obama said at the forum, where he credited his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, for his efforts to combat AIDS and HIV.

“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.

As part of a goal to achieve “an AIDS-free generation,” Obama said the United States aimed to provide anti-retroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women worldwide by 2013.

He announced a $50 million increase in spending on HIV and AIDS treatment in the United States, where only 28 percent of the 1.2 million Americans living with the infection have it under control, according to health officials.

This morning, Bono’s op-ed appeared in the NYT proclaiming “A Decade of Progress on AIDS”. While there is certainly work to do, and all the news is not good (clearly voiced in the NPR article “What a Lack of AIDS Funding Could Mean For Africa”), we should not lose sight of how far we have come, and what boundaries we have crossed to do so:

By the late 1990s, AIDS campaigners in the United States and around the world teamed up with scientists and doctors to insist that someone — anyone — put the fire out. The odds against this were as extreme as the numbers: in 2002, two million people were dying of AIDS and more than three million were newly infected with H.I.V. Around 50,000 people in the sub-Saharan region had access to treatment.

Yet today, here we are, talking seriously about the “end” of this global epidemic. There are now 6.6 million people on life-saving AIDS medicine. But still too many are being infected. New research proves that early antiretroviral treatment, especially for pregnant women, in combination with male circumcision, will slash the rate of new H.I.V. cases by up to 60 percent. This is the tipping point we have been campaigning for. We’re nearly there.

How did we get here? America led. I mean really led.

For me, a fan and a pest of America, it’s a tale of strange bedfellows: the gay community, evangelicals and scruffy student activists in a weird sort of harmony; military men calling AIDS in Africa a national security issue; the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee and John Kerry in lock step with Bill Frist and Rick Santorum; Jesse Helms, teary-eyed, arriving by walker to pledge support from the right; the big man, Patrick Leahy, offering to punch out a cranky Congressional appropriator; Jeffrey Sachs, George Soros and Bill Gates, backing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Rupert Murdoch (yes, him) offering the covers of the News Corporation.

Also: a conservative president, George W. Bush, leading the largest ever response to the pandemic; the same Mr. Bush banging his desk when I complained that the drugs weren’t getting there fast enough, me apologizing to Mr. Bush when they did; Bill Clinton, arm-twisting drug companies to drop their prices; Hillary Rodham Clinton, making it policy to eradicate the transmission of H.I.V. from mother to child; President Obama, who is expected to make a game changing announcement this World AIDS Day to finish what his predecessors started — the beginning of the end of AIDS.

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Donald Schell

Remembering San Francisco in the early 1980's is both the sadness of remembering friends who died so quickly after diagnosis and pride at our bishop - Bill Swing - calling the first church-sponsored conference on AIDS and teaching our Episcopal church to tell the truth when he coined the phrase, "our church has AIDS.". It's amazing now to recall how far we've come at home and globally. Through my wife's work in Africa http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2011/12/11057/aids-struggle-continues it has also been continuing glimpses of how the epidemic has steadily shifted African churches and society toward compassion, the better story of global Anglicanism, we and our communion partners finding ways beyond stigma and toward increasing empowerment of women.

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