CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
President Obama announced a new initiative on Monday to advance the work to develop a cure for HIV, pledging $100 million to fund research projects in this area. The president also promised that the United States will donate up to $5 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as long as other countries pool their resources to raise $10 billion for the effort.
The new project, which will be housed under the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will focus on developing “new therapies” to combat the virus. The $100 million in funding will be reassigned from AIDS research grants that are expiring over the next three years.
Obama’s announcement came on the heels of the 25th annual World AIDS Day, which the international community marked on Sunday. Although there’s been significant global progress in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there’s still no cure for the HIV virus on the immediate horizon. The president hopes that greater investment from the United States could help change that.
“The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put HIV into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies, or better yet, eliminate it completely,” Obama said on Monday.
Obama has faced recent pressure to re-up his administration’s financial support for the fight against AIDS. The President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an international aid program established under former president George W. Bush, is currently at its lowest funding level since 2007. And some of NIH’s existing HIV research programs have been strained by sequester cuts. Obama did not specifically address PEPFAR’s funding in his announcement on Monday.
The White House has attempted to tackle this issue in other ways, too. In July, Obama created the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, a new program to help coordinate federal efforts surrounding recent developments in HIV treatment and prevention.
About 34 million people around the world are living with HIV, a number that includes about 1.2 million Americans. And the advances in combating the disease have remained stratified by race, class, and sexuality. Vulnerable populations like transgender women, men who have sex with men, and low-income communities are still at great risk for contracting the virus.