by Isi Esene
Fighting words to warm the heart: US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has expressed her country’s resolve to fight AIDS saying, “We will not back off, we will not back down, we will fight for the resources to achieve this historic milestone”.
“I am here to make it absolutely clear: The United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation,” she continued.
She told the conference that the U.S would keep pushing for an ‘AIDS-free generation’, funding more HIV drugs and medical interventions such as circumcision to help turn back the global epidemic.
In a bid to leverage on the progress achieved in the fight against AIDS through new drug treatments and programs to halt mother-to-child HIV transmission, Clinton announced a donation of $150mn, part of which is to help in sourcing for vaccine to help poor countries in the fight.
She insisted that “this is a fight we can win. We’ve already come so far, too far to stop now. HIV may be with us into the future until we finally achieve a cure, a vaccine. But the disease that HIV causes need not be with us”.
An estimated 8 million people in lower-income countries are receiving anti-retroviral drugs, and the United Nations has set a target to raise that to 15 million by 2015.
Clinton said the goal of an ‘AIDS free generation’, which means that no child will be born with the virus, those already in their teens will be at less risk and those already infected will have access to treatment, was in sight.
U.S. funding for anti-retroviral drugs, the only treatments known to slow the disease, now covers close to 4.5 million people and should cover 6 million by the end of 2013, Clinton said.
The United States will also step up funding for programs to help prevent mothers from passing along the HIV virus to their unborn children, providing $80 million to help improve treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women, Clinton said.
This week’s gathering in Washington is the first international AIDS conference in the United States since 1990, and follows a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to drop a standing U.S. ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.
Clinton, who was met by scattered chants and cheers as she started her speech, acknowledged the change.
‘What would an AIDS conference be without a little protesting? We understand that,’ Clinton said. ‘Let me say five words we have not been able to say for too long: Welcome to the United States!’
And she called on governments to take steps to reach groups most at risk for HIV such as sex workers and men who have sex with men, urging an end to discrimination which has marginalized many of the most vulnerable people, particularly in Africa.
‘If we’re going to beat AIDS we can’t afford to avoid sensitive conversations and we can’t fail to reach the people who are at the highest risk,’ Clinton said. ‘Humans might discriminate, but viruses do not.’