Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. would be contributing an additional $157 million to the fight against HIV-AIDS, even as a constellation of celebrity speakers at the ongoing International AIDS Conference here admitted that the world continued to face serious challenges in halting the spread of the epidemic.
Reflecting on the mixed record of the scientific community seeking a cure for HIV-AIDS Ms. Clinton said, “The ability to prevent and treat the disease has advanced beyond what many might have reasonably hoped 22 years ago. Yes, AIDS is still incurable, but it no longer has to be a death sentence.”
With a rare hat-tip to former U.S. President George W. Bush, for setting up the nodal PEPFAR agency in 2003 for fighting HIV-AIDS in the U.S., the Secretary added that under President Barack Obama the U.S.’ focus has been on “shifting out of emergency mode and starting to build sustainable health systems that will help us finally win this fight.”
To that end, she announced, the U.S. would be contributing an additional $40 million to support South Africa’s voluntary medical circumcision plans; investing an additional $80 million to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women receive adequate treatment; $37 million in implementation research, country-specific programmes and civil-society support targeting vulnerable and high-risk populations across the world.
India found specific mention as a nation with one of the largest HIV-positive populations globally, when Ms. Clinton said that along with South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, India, may be able to provide more and better care for its by committing more of its own resources to the cause.
“Partner countries also need to take steps like fighting corruption and making sure their systems for approving drugs are as efficient as possible,” Ms. Clinton said, adding that the U.S. had sometimes engaged in “difficult conversations about issues that some leaders don’t want to face, like government corruption in the procurement and delivery of drugs or dealing with injecting drug users.”
Emphasising that it was the first time a President of the World Bank had addressed the Conference the new head of the multilateral lender, Jim Yong Kim, praised the role of NGOs in the fight against HIV-AIDS, including the Lawyers Collective in India.
Touching upon the overall between the fights against AIDS and poverty, he emphasised openness and innovation, saying, “The countries that have achieved the greatest successes against AIDS have been open about their epidemics. They have shared information widely, challenged stigma, and encouraged public debate. They have refused secrecy and dispelled irrational fear.”
Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said in a media interview that although recent United Nations statistics suggested that global AIDS deaths last year fell to 1.7 million, down from 1.8 million in 2010, the end was not in sight.
Speaking to Reuters news agency he said that far too many people are dying from AIDSand the world still lacked “the tools that will bring about the end.” Wealthy nations, Mr. Gates said, were the primary engine for funding the research and the delivery of life-saving drugs to 8 million poor people and yet they now faced financial challenges that threatened AIDS funding.