December 1, 2011
Beginning of the End of AIDS
Transcript of remarks by President Obama at George Washington University on World AIDS Day.
Hello, everyone! Thank you, Sanjay. It’s an honor to be with you all today and to follow President Kikwete and President Bush. To Bono, to Alicia, to the ONE campaign, thank you for bringing us together. Because of your work, all across Africa, there are children who are no longer starving; mothers who are no longer dying of treatable diseases; and fathers who are again providing for their families. Because of you, so many people are now blessed with hope.
We’ve got Members of Congress here who have done so much for this cause. Thank you.
Let me also thank President Bush for joining us from Tanzania and for his bold leadership on this issue. History will record the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as an extraordinary legacy. That program – more ambitious than even leading advocates thought was possible at the time – has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions. And we are proud to carry that work forward.
Today is a remarkable day. Today, we come together, as a global community, across continents, faiths and cultures, to renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic - once and for all.
Now, if you go back and look at the themes of past World AIDS Days, if you read them one after another, you’ll see the story of how the human race has confronted one of the most devastating pandemics in our history. You’ll see that in those early years – when we started losing good men and women to a disease that no one truly understood – it was about ringing the alarm; calling for global action; proving that this deadly disease was not isolated to one area or one people.
And that’s part of what makes today so remarkable; because back in those early years, few could have imagined this day; that we would be looking ahead to ‘The Beginning of the End;’ marking a World AIDS Day that has as its theme, ‘Getting to Zero.’ Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. But we are. And we arrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can – and will – beat this disease.
Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died from AIDS – some of you here today – are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And, because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections, and deaths, is declining.
So make no mistake, we are winning this fight. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot.
The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it’s not going down in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly fifty percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups; when black women feel forgotten even though they account for most of the new cases among women, we need to do more.
This fight isn’t over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight isn’t over for them. It isn’t over for their families. It isn’t over for anyone in this room. And it isn’t over for your President.
Since I took office, we’ve had a robust national dialogue on HIV/AIDS. Members of my Administration have fanned out across the country to meet people living with HIV, to meet researchers, faith leaders, medical providers, and private sector partners. We’ve spoken with over 4,000 folks. And out of all those conversations we drafted a new plan to combat this disease.
Last year, we released that plan – our first ever comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy. We went back to basics – prevention, treatment, and focusing our efforts where the need is greatest. And we laid out a vision where every American, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status can get access to life-extending care.
Now, I want to be clear about something else – since taking office, we’ve increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels. With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act. 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. But we can do more.
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.
Because here’s the thing: this is a global fight, one that America must continue to lead. Look back at the history of HIV/AIDS and you’ll see that no other country has done more than us. That’s testament to our leadership as a country. Look back and you’ll see that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have consistently come together to fund this fight. Not just here, but around the world. That’s testament to the values that we share as Americans; a commitment that extends across party lines and that is demonstrated by President Bush and I joining you all today.
Since I took office, we’ve increased support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We’ve launched a Global Health Initiative that has improved access to health care, helped bring down the costs of vaccines and, over the next five years, will help save the lives of four million more children. And, all along, we’ve kept focusing on expanding our impact.
Today I am proud to announce that as of September, the United States now supports anti-retroviral treatment for nearly four million people worldwide. In just the past year, we’ve provided six hundred thousand HIV-positive mothers with access to drugs so that two hundred thousand babies could be born HIV-free. And nearly thirteen million people have received care and treatment, including more than four million children. So that’s something to be proud of.
And we’re achieving these results not by acting alone, but by partnering with developing countries like Tanzania, and with leaders like President Kikwete.
Now, as we go forward, we need to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention. That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works, from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior. And that’s why we’re setting a goal of providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than one and a half million HIV-positive pregnant woman over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies. But we’re not stopping there. 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.
So on this World AIDS Day, here’s my message to everyone out there.
To the global community – join us. Countries that have committed to the Global Fund need to give the money they promised. And countries that haven’t made a pledge need to do so. That includes China and other major economies that are now able to step up as major donors.
To Congress - keep working together and keep the commitments you’ve made intact. At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and presidencies. It has shown that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics. Let’s carry that spirit forward.
And to all Americans - keep fighting. Fight for every person who needs our help today but also fight for every person who didn’t live to see this moment. Fight for Rock Hudson, Arthur Ashe, and every person who woke us up to the reality of HIV/AIDS. Fight for Ryan White, his mother Jeanne, the Ray brothers, and every person who forced us to confront our destructive prejudices and misguided fears. Fight for Magic Johnson, Mary Fisher and every man, woman and child, who, when told they were going to die from this disease, said, “No, I’m going to live.”
Keep fighting for all of them because we can end this pandemic. We can beat this disease. We can win this fight. We just have to keep at it, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero. And as long as I have the honor of being your President, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. That’s my pledge – my commitment – to you. And that has to be our promise to each other; because we have come so far; we have saved so many lives; let’s finish the fight.
Thank you for all that you’ve done. God bless you. And God bless America.
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