President Obama on Thursday announced plans to step up the fight against AIDS, by making a modest commitment of an extra $50 million for domestic treatment and promising to provide more drugs to to people living with AIDS internationally.
"We can beat this disease. We can win this fight," Mr. Obama said from a World AIDS Day event in Washington. "We just have to keep at it, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero."
The event, at George Washington University, was also attended by U2 lead singer Bono, singer Alicia Keys and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also participated; before Mr. Obama spoke, Mr. Bush delivered remarks from Tanzania, where he was joined by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
Mr. Obama said his administration is committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program, which supports HIV medical clinics in the U.S., as well as an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.
Mr. Obama noted that the rate of infection is going down globally, but in the U.S., the rate of infection has held steady for over a decade. There are 1.2 million Americans living with HIV right now. Certain communities, such as black women and young, black gay men, are particularly affected by the disease.
The president has focused largely on combatting HIV/AIDS domestically, releasing last year a comprehensive national strategy to fight the disease and increasing overall funding for combatting HIV/AIDS to record levels. The administration has also ended the ban prohibiting people with AIDS from entering America, allowing the U.S. to hold the International AIDS conference next year for the first time in two decades.
Internationally, the U.S. supports anti-retroviral treatment for nearly four million people. The president today announced a new goal of helping six million people get on treatment by the end of 2013.
Mr. Obama called on rising economies like China to step up their efforts in the global fight against AIDS and implored the U.S. Congress to keep its commitments.
Speaking from Tanzania, Mr. Bush also encouraged U.S. leaders to keep up its efforts, even in light of fiscal concerns. "I understand we're in tight budget times," he said, but "we are a blessed nation, and I believe we are required to support effective programs that save lives."
Mr. Obama praised Mr. Bush for starting the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, calling it one of his successor's "greatest legacies."