- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday a new strategy for combatting HIV and AIDS fulfills America’s obligation to stopping the spread of the virus and rooting out the inequities and attitudes on which it thrives.

The strategy sets a goal of reducing new infections by 25 percent over the next five years; getting treatment for 85 percent of patients within three months of their diagnosis; and increasing education about the virus, even in communities with low rates of infection.

“Fighting HIV/AIDS in America and around the world will require more than just fighting the virus,” Obama said at a White House reception honoring the work of the HIV and AIDS community. “It will require a broader effort to make life more just and equitable.”

More than 1.1 million Americans live with HIV. About 56,000 are infected each year, a rate that has held steady for about a decade.

“We’ve been keeping pace when we should be gaining ground,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said earlier Tuesday.

The strategy is the result of more than a year of discussions between the administration, state and local officials, advocacy groups and the private sector. The administration is allocating $30 million from the massive health care overhaul Congress passed earlier this year toward implementation of the new plan.

Some AIDS activists criticized the plan for not setting more ambitious goals and for not funding the benchmarks it lays out.

“The president’s plan is so flawed that it might actually represent a step backwards in combating HIV and AIDS in the United States,” said Charles King, president of Housing Works, a community-based AIDS organization.

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