Obama praises advancements in fight against HIV/AIDS

President Obama praised several advancements in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, including aspects of his health care law that will give people access to testing for the infection and the ability to get insurance coverage if they already have it.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of insured Americans will be able to get tested free of charge,” Mr. Obama said at a World AIDS Day event at the White House Monday. “Americans who were uninsured will now be able to have access to affordable health care coverage, and beginning in January, no American will be again be denied health insurance because of their HIV status.”

The president has continued what he called a “phenomenal” program created by George W. Bush  called President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which seeks to combat the disease around the world. But he also praised several domestic advancements and initiatives that he will undertake.

Chief among them is a new $100 million initiative at the National Institutes of Health to continue to seek a cure for HIV. Mr. Obama also announced that the wait list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which was once 9,000 people long, has now been cleared to zero in the wake of an additional $35 million the president committed two years ago.

“Every year, this is a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come since the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  And those of you who lived through it remember all too well the fear and the stigma, and how hard people with HIV had to fight to be seen, or heard, or to be treated with basic compassion.  And you remember how little we knew about how to prevent AIDS, or how to treat it,” Mr Obama said. “Today, that picture is transformed…awareness has soared; research has surged.  Prevention, treatment and care are now saving millions of lives not only in the world’s richest countries but in some of the world‘s poorest countries as well.  And for many, with testing and access to the right treatment, the disease that was once a death sentence now comes with a good chance at a healthy and productive life.  And that's an extraordinary achievement.” 

The U.S. will continue to lead international efforts to eradicate the disease. Mr. Obama announced that a PEPFAR treatment goal of 6 million people he set at the World AIDS Day two years ago was exceeded, and that 6.7 million received treatment. For the next three years, America will contribute $1 for every $2 pledge made up to $5 billion to replenish The Global Fund, which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

When PEPFAR gets its next permanent leader, the president said, they will convene a meeting of the U.S. and its global partners to develop HIV prevention and treatment goals.

“The United States of America will remain the global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  We will stand with you every step of this journey until we reach the day that we know is possible, when all men and women can protect themselves from infection; a day when all people with HIV have access to the treatments that extend their lives; the day when there are no babies being born with HIV or AIDS, and when we achieve, at long last, what was once hard to imagine - and that’s an AIDS-free generation,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s the world I want for my daughters. That’s the world that all of us want for our families.” 

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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