Obama Sets Lofty Goals to End HIV/AIDS Epidemic Despite Limited Reach

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President Barack Obama called for an AIDS-free generation in a speech at George Washington University on Dec. 1, setting lofty goals for the eventual end of the epidemic.

“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 gone from that early beginning when people were still uncertain to now a theme, ‘Getting to Zero,’” Obama said. Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, a number that has prompted action by the United States government.

Obama announced that the U.S. has provided anti-retroviral treatment for roughly four million people worldwide. He also said the country has been successful in providing medication to 600,000 HIV-positive mothers so that 200,000 babies could be born without the disease.

Despite the nation’s assistance, there are still seven million people waiting for access to treatment according to the WHO. Only 47 percent of HIV patients in developing countries have coverage to receive antiretroviral drugs.

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Nationwide, Obama touted the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act, which provides funding for low-income, uninsured and under-insured HIV/AIDS patients and their families. However, he acknowledged that the federal government needed private support to continue battling the disease.

On a human rights note, he also noted the end of a law that prohibited HIV-positive individuals from entering the United States, allowing the country to host the international AIDS conference next year, the first time in 20 years it has done so.