November 30, 2013
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
As the international community gets set to mark the 25th annual observance of World AIDS Day next week, President Obama is facing renewed pressure from U.S. lawmakers and activists to take legacy-setting action to combat HIV/AIDS. Activists say the world is at the door-step of virtually eradicating AIDS over the next generation, but it requires Obama to act boldly. In November, just weeks after Obama was reelected to a second term, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a “blue print” for what she called an AIDS-free generation. Obama repeated in his State of the Union address that he believed the goal was “within our reach.”
A bipartisan group of 40 lawmakers earlier this month called on Obama to announce a new goal for the U.S. government to double its support of treatment of lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs by the end of his presidency through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program that is credited with providing millions of Africans with anti-retroviral drugs since its establishment and led to 1 million babies globally being born HIV-free. In a letter, the lawmakers — led by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California — made the case to Obama that “scaling up” to a goal of treating 12 million through PEPFAR “will not only save millions of lives but will also significantly reduce human suffering, new HIV infections, and healthcare costs in the years to come.”
The White House plans to announce during next week’s Global Fund conference that the administration has met the goal it set in 2011 of treating 6 million people through PEPFAR, but it won’t set a new target until early next year, according to Gayle Smith, the senior director for development and democracy at the White House National Security Council. “We are serving four times the number of people today than we were when PEPFAR first began, but because we’ve gotten better at it and more efficient at it, we’re doing it at reduced costs,” Obama said.
But when it comes to fighting AIDS in Africa, activists and health care specialists say Obama has lagged behind Bush, who received praise from the political left and right as well as the international community by establishing PEPFAR in 2003. Obama has chafed against the oft-repeated notion from some AIDS activists that he has lagged Bush in fighting the spread of AIDS.
In 2010 the Obama administration pledged $4 billion over three years. Activists said that the U.S. was punching below its weight, and led to other donor countries holding back funding.
“Now is the president’s chance to say what it all means. This is his crucial moment.”
I think Obama should give a lot more money to the AIDS foundation. This is a very serious disease in which people don’t realize how bad it really can affect your body. The Bush administration did a very good job with help the foundation. Obama has faced a lot of different oppression regarding people complying with what he wants to do. I know that with more time Obama will be able to give more money to the foundation, but it will take time. The AIDs foundation has been making great strides it’s just the American people who need to be more careful. Hopefully one day we will be able to eradicate this awful virus.