- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2012

Global cooperation and funding in targeted areas to high-risk groups “where the virus is” can help bring the world closer to the goal of eliminating the scourge of AIDS, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

The world already has seen dramatic declines in new HIV infections from “applying evidence-based strategies in the most effective combinations,” Mrs. Clinton told a State Department briefing in advance of Saturday’s World AIDS Day.

If, in the next few years, nations drive down the number of new HIV infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, “that will be the tipping point,” she said.

Not only must goals be set, she said, but nations and international organizations must live up to their commitments. The United States is, and will continue, doing its part to fight AIDS, she said, but creating an AIDS-free generation is too big a task for one government or one country.

An AIDS-free generation is described as one in which virtually no children are born with HIV and people who acquire HIV have access to treatment that will prevent them from developing AIDS and passing on the virus to others.

Mrs. Clinton, who was joined at the State Department briefing by Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, the global AIDS coordinator for the United States, and Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, formally released the U.S. blueprint for eradicating the disease at the briefing.

The report details goals and investments the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will be supporting, including eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015; increasing the number of males who are circumcised for HIV prevention; and increasing HIV prevention and treatment programs, especially among high-risk groups such as intravenous drug users, sex workers, trafficked persons and men who have sex with men.

Fighting HIV means “we have to go where the virus is,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Already, U.S. funding has been used to provide 5.1 million people with so-called antiretroviral drugs to fight the ravages of the virus as well as to support 2 million male circumcisions, aimed at reducing the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission, the report noted.

PEPFAR funding, which stands at more than $6 billion a year, also will support research and development of new prevention technologies, such as vaccines and microbicides, and HIV and tuberculosis testing, as well as a range of other educational programs. HIV prevention, for instance, should be integrated with family-planning efforts, Mrs. Clinton said.

The United States leads the world in funding the fight against AIDS, having contributed nearly $37 billion in bilateral funding and more than $7 billion to the Global Fund.

The new blueprint does not detail future spending — a deficit that leaves the report “mostly more talk and spin by the Obama administration,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Earlier this week, AIDS activists went to Capitol Hill to protest potential cuts of $689 million to global health programs and $538 million to domestic AIDS programs included in a year-end package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.”

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