Aids Focus

Clinton: US in global Aids fight to win

2012-07-23 21:01
Hillary Clinton. (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

Hillary Clinton. (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

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Washington - The United States will keep pushing for an "Aids-free generation", funding more HIV drugs and medical interventions such as circumcision to help turn back the global epidemic, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

"I am here to make it absolutely clear: The United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an Aids-free generation," Clinton told the international Aids conference in Washington.

"We will not back off, we will not back down, we will fight for the resources to achieve this historic milestone."

Clinton's keynote speech sought to underscore Washington's dedication to the global Aids fight amid fears that US leadership might suffer as spending cuts and budget woes threaten a range of government programs.

Clinton announced more than $150m in new US spending initiatives geared toward leveraging progress against Aids already achieved through new drug treatments, programmes to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the preventive effect of expanded voluntary male circumcision.

"This is a fight we can win. We've already come so far, too far to stop now," Clinton said. "HIV may be with us into the future until we finally achieve a cure, a vaccine. But the disease that HIV causes need not be with us."

The United Nations estimates that about 34 million people are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Aids.

But UN figures show that the number of worldwide Aids-related deaths fell to 1.7 million last year from about 1.8 million in 2010, after peaking at 2.3 million in 2005.

An estimated 8 million people in lower-income countries are receiving antiretroviral drugs, and the United Nations has set a target to raise that to 15 million by 2015.

Funding for HIV prevention and treatment totalled $16.8bn last year. Of that amount, $8.2bn came from international sources, including the United States, which donated 48% of it.

Children

Clinton said the goal of an "Aids-free generation", which means that no child will be born with the virus, those already in their teens will be at less risk and those already infected will have access to treatment, was in sight.

US funding for antiretroviral drugs, the only treatments known to slow the disease, now covers close to 4.5 million people and should cover 6 million by the end of 2013, Clinton said.

The United States is also stepping up funding for voluntary male circumcision, which has been shown to cut the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60% in studies in Africa, the continent hardest hit by the disease.

Clinton said US funds had supported 400 000 circumcision procedures since last December and announced that the United States would provide a further $40m for South Africa's plans to provide voluntary circumcision to almost half a million men and boys in the coming year.

The United States will also step up funding for programmes to help prevent mothers from passing along the HIV virus to their unborn children, providing $80m to help improve treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women, Clinton said.

Ban

This week's gathering in Washington is the first international Aids conference in the United States since 1990, and follows a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to drop a standing US ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.

Clinton, who was met by scattered chants and cheers as she started her speech, acknowledged the change.

"What would an Aids conference be without a little protesting? We understand that," Clinton said. "Let me say five words we have not been able to say for too long: Welcome to the United States!"

And she called on governments to take steps to reach groups most at risk for HIV such as sex workers and men who have sex with men, urging an end to discrimination which has marginalized many of the most vulnerable people, particularly in Africa.

Clinton announced a total of almost $40m in new US funding for programmes to reach these groups and said the world could not be complacent if the HIV virus is allowed to spread at society's margins.

"If we're going to beat Aids we can't afford to avoid sensitive conversations and we can't fail to reach the people who are at the highest risk," Clinton said.

"Humans might discriminate, but viruses do not."

- Reuters

Read more on:    un  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  hiv aids  |  health

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