President Obama praised the worldwide strides made in the fight against the AIDS pandemic over the last decade and said that an AIDS-free generation is within reach if the United States and other countries remain vigilant in fighting the disease.
In tribute to World AIDS Day, which was Sunday, Obama said the U.S. government surpassed his 2011 target of helping six million people gain access to treatment. As of September, he said, the program, known as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has supported treatment for 6.7 million people.
That figure marks a nearly four-fold increase from the number the program assisted in 2008.
“We can't change the past or undo its wrenching pain, but what we can do and what we have to do is to chart a different future, guided by our love for those we couldn't save,” Obama said at an event at the White House Monday. He was joined on stage by Secretary of State John Kerry, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Munoz, assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Earlier this year the PEPFAR program, which Obama inherited from President George W. Bush, reached an important milestone -- the one-millionth baby born without HIV, he said.
He also encouraged international voluntary support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and pledged that the United States would contribute one dollar for every two dollars pledged by other donors over the next three years -- up to $5 billion.
“Don't leave our money on the table,” he said. “It's been inspiring to see the country's most affected by this disease vastly increase their own contributions to this fight, in some cases providing more than donor countries do. And that ought to inspire all of us to give more to do more so we can save more lives.”
As long as he remains president, he said the United States will remain the global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“We will stand with you every step of this journey until we reach the day that we know is possible when all men and women can protect themselves from infection, a day when all people with HIV have access to the treatments that extend their lives, the day when there are no babies being born with HIV or AIDS and when we achieve at long last what was once hard to imagine, and that's an AIDS-free generation.”