Let’s finish the fight against AIDS: Obama

US President Barack Obama has added $US50 million ($A49 million) to fight AIDS in the United States and launched new efforts to treat two million more people abroad, at an event to mark World AIDS Day.


“We can beat this disease,” Obama said at the gathering, which included speeches by satellite from former presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush and appearances by U2 singer Bono and pop-soul singer Alicia Keys.

“We we have saved so many lives, let’s finish the fight.”

About 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, and close to two-thirds do not have their infection under control, US health authorities said this week.

According to the latest UN figures, about 34 million people in the world were infected with HIV/AIDS in 2010 and 1.8 million people died, down from a peak of 2.2 million in 2005.

Internationally, Obama said the United States has set “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.”

Obama said the United States currently helps four million people around the world get antiretroviral treatment, and last year gave “600,000 HIV-positive mothers access to drugs so that 200,000 babies could be born HIV-free”.

As Obama battles Republican politicians over US budget priorities amid a mounting deficit, a White House official stressed that the new boost in funds “will all be done within existing resources and not require congressional approval”.

Obama also appealed to global partners, including China, to step up their efforts to end AIDS, 30 years after the epidemic first surfaced.

“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 that they promised. Countries that haven’t made a pledge, they need to do so. That includes countries that in the past might have been recipients but now are in a position to step up as major donors.

“China and other major economies are in a position now to transition in a way that can help more people.”

Former president George W Bush, who spoke by satellite from Tanzania, hailed the US government program that in 2008 authorised $US48 billion over five years to fight worldwide HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

“World AIDS Day is a day to celebrate success,” Bush said.

New cases of HIV have levelled off at about 50,000 in the United States each year, with 16,000 people dying annually of AIDS.

“The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it’s not going down here in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade,” said Obama.

“This fight is not over.”

Obama said $US15 million of the new funding would go to support HIV medical clinics and $US35 million was earmarked for the state AIDS drug assistance programs.

“The AIDS epidemic is coming back in America, especially among gay men, primarily African Americans, and the spending programs have been pared back,” said Clinton.

“I am very worried that the death rate is going to go up in America simply because of the budgetary constraints on the states,” said the former president, whose Clinton Foundation works to get low-cost AIDS drugs to people in need.

“We can all lobby for more effective expenditure of aid money, not just in the United States but around the world.”