This week, as we gathered in the White House with key scientists, policymakers, and community stakeholders to commemorate World AIDS Day, I was so proud to help highlight the progress we’ve made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Last year marked the anniversary of the third decade of the HIV epidemic, and new HIV infections are decreasing worldwide. People diagnosed with HIV can now expect to live a normal lifespan with the help of highly effective medications– a dramatic shift from the early days of the epidemic.
2012 has been another busy and inspirational year in our collective efforts to prevent and treat HIV. This was best exemplified by the International AIDS Conference, which was held in the United States in July for the first time in over 20 years, right here in Washington, DC, thanks to bipartisan action by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and the Congress to lift the ban on people living with HIV entering the United States
During the conference, President Obama hosted a White House reception for people living with HIV, scientists, policy makers and advocates. In addition, many senior-level administration officials spoke at the conference, including Secretaries Clinton and Sebelius, Ambassador Eric Goosby, Dr. Grant Colfax of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Dr. Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
We learned at the conference that the number of overall deaths and number of infants born with HIV in PEPFAR countries are rapidly decreasing.
PEPFAR, which enjoys bipartisan support and support from the previous and the current Administration, stands as an exemplar of what can be achieved by U.S leadership.
Today, in recognition of World AIDS Day, we have reached another milestone with the release of PEPFAR’s Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-Free Generation, which provides a roadmap for how the U.S. Government will work to help achieve a generation free of AIDS.
As part of ongoing implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we have also witnessed several milestones in domestic HIV prevention and care in the past year. For the first time in the history of the epidemic, Americans are now able to test for HIV and receive their test results in the privacy of their own home.
This is particularly welcome news given data released by CDC this week showing that young Americans comprised an astonishing one quarter of new HIV infections in 2010. Despite their risk for HIV infection, CDC also found that less than a third of young Americans had ever been tested for HIV. Moreover, among those youth who tested HIV-positive, 60% did not know that they had HIV.
Beyond the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the Affordable Care Act will benefit Americans living with HIV. Not only will the Affordable Care Act prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people living with HIV, but it also will provide coverage for tens of thousands of Americans living with HIV.
In continuing this work, this week, Secretary Sebelius announced that HHS will be formally establishing HIV/AIDS as one of the chronic health conditions for which states can implement Medicaid Health Homes, or networks to care for patients, and receive extra federal funding to support high-quality comprehensive, coordinated care.
Clearly, there is much work to be done—and changing people’s lives for the better is often an incremental process. But sometimes, meaningful change happens in a relatively short period of time. This past year has been marked by significant advances. Our collective narrative has changed from how to manage HIV to how to end the epidemic.
Today, as the red ribbon hangs from the White House in commemoration of World AIDS Day, we realize that we are even closer to the reality of an AIDS-free generation, and we will continue to work to achieve it.
To read yesterday’s World AIDS Day Twitter Q+A with myself and Gayle Smith, Senior Director for Development and Democracy, click here.
For more information on our AIDS efforts, please visit aids.gov.