Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the United States and her allies to scale up their funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to “change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation,” during a speech at the NIH this morning. “I want the American people to understand the irreplaceable role the U.S. has played in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is their tax dollars, our tax dollars that have made this possible and we need to keep going,” she said before announcing, “creating an HIV-free population has never been a government priority until today. Today it is possible because of scientific advances largely funded by the United States.” Watch a compilation of the speech:
Clinton said she envisioned a world in which virtually no children are born with the virus, face far lower risk of becoming infected, and have access to treatments that prevent the development of AIDS and reduce spreading the infection. “HIV may be there in the future, but the disease that it causes may not be,” she said, laying out three “combination prevention” measures that would help meet the new goal:
1) Preventing mother to child transmission: 1 in 7 occurs when a mother passes the virus to her child, Clinton noted and joked: “We can get that number to zero. I keep saying zero, my speech writer keeps saying virtually zero.” She set the goal of eliminating new infections among children by 2015.
2) Voluntary male circumcision: Clinton described this option as a low-cost procedure that reduces the risk of female to male transmission by more than 60 percent. Since 2007, some 1 million have been circumcised for HIV prevention, with 3/4 of the procedures having been funded by PEPFAR.
3) Treating with anti-retro viral drugs:“If you treat a person living with HIV effectively, you reduce the risk of transmission to a partner by 96 percent,” Clinton said and pledged to “scale-up” funding that will have a profound impact on the fight against AIDS.
“Scaling up combination prevention would drive down new infections by at lest 40-60 percent,” Clinton predicted, “on top of 25 percent drop” that has occurred due to existing efforts. As a result, the number of new infections will decrease, making it possible to treat new infections each ear. “And so instead of falling behind, we will for the first time get ahead of the prevention,” Clinton explained. “We will be on the path of an AIDS-free generation.”
Clinton took a veiled shot at Republicans, referring to “some who wish us to live in an evidence free zone.” “It’s imperative that we stand up for evidence and for science. Facts are stubborn things, even though they might in the short term be dismissed. Eventually we will prevail,” she promised. The Secretary of State also announced $60 million in additional funding to determine how best to implement combination prevention strategies.
Clinton announced that Ellen DeGeneres has been named as a Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness. “I’m honored to have been chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as Special Envoy for Global AIDS awareness. The fight against AIDS is something that has always been close to my heart. And I’m happy that I can use my platform to educate people and spread hope. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look up what “envoy” means,” DeGeneres said in a statement.