On World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama declared that America is on its way to defeating the global pandemic known as the AIDS virus. At an online conference Thursday, the President announced more funding ($50 million more) for HIV/AIDS treatment in the U.S. and a higher target goal for how many Americans will be on treatment by 2013 (6 million people). And while HIV patients and advocates welcome efforts to fight and treat the disease on a large scale, many agree that at the state and local levels, serious problems with treatment programs and the criminalization of HIV-positive individuals often go unaddressed. (more…)
President Obama announced today that $50 million in additional funds will be going toward treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
Obama said during “The Beginning of the End of AIDS,” an online conference organized by ONE International, “a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa”:
Today, I’m announcing some new commitments. We’re committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country. Let’s keep their doors open so they can keep saving lives. And we’re committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Now, the federal government can’t do this alone. So I’m also calling on state governments, pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations, to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.
Florida has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the United States. According to National Alliance of State and territorial AIDS Directors, “as of November 17, 2011, there were 6,595 individuals” (.pdf) on ADAP “waiting lists in 12 states.” More than 3,200 of those people live in Florida.
ADAP provides life saving medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. States have implemented a variety of cost containment measures that include waiting lists since 2010, when ADAPs began facing an ongoing funding crisis.
“With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act,” Obama said today. “And, as I signed that bill, I was so proud to also announce that my Administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America. Because of that step, next year, for the first time in two decades, we will host the International AIDS conference. So we’ve done a lot over the past three years.”
The president added: “We know that treatment is also prevention. And today we’re setting a new target of helping six million people get on treatment by the end of 2013. That’s two million more people than our original goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs November report issued this week indicates that in the U.S. alone “about 1.2 million people are living with HIV” and “about 240,000 don’t know they are infected.”
Vital Signs adds that “each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. Getting an HIV test is the first step to finding out if you have HIV and getting medical care.”
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, approved in 2010, highlights among other measures the need for increasing access to treatment and focusing on HIV prevention programs.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke at the ONE conference panel, saying HIV/AIDS “is a good example of how government can work with other institutions in society and around the world to be a positive difference maker.”
Rubio added Democrats and Republicans agree that “the U.S. was a great country in the 2oth century” and “some of the debate that’s happening now is whether the United States will remain a great country in the 21st century.”
The senator acknowledged that “we need to recognize that there are still thousands of people in the United States on waiting lists to receive medication, certainly in my home state of Florida that is the case.”
Rubio concluded that the “economy will be even tougher if people around the world are dying, can’t enter the workforce and can’t be our business partners in economic trade and development.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., founding co-chair of the first ever congressional HIV/AIDS caucus, highlighted today the need to increase HIV testing at the domestic level, adding, “We need a domestic PEPFAR; that’s what we are working on.”
PEPFAR, the United States President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was created to “help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.”
Photo: President Barack Obama (Flickr/The White House)