Obama’s ‘New’ Global AIDS Plan: Does He Mean It, Or Is It Just More Spin?

In speech, Secretary Clinton envisions ‘AIDS-free generation,’ “but offers no specifics how to achieve it”

WASHINGTON (November 8, 2011) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today welcomed the administration’s call for an, ‘AIDS-free generation,’ but expressed skepticism that the call, which contained no actual proposals on how to achieve it, was more spin on the subject of global AIDS.

“To date, the Obama administration has not fully supported efforts to combat global AIDS.  It has flat funded AIDS budgets and assigned AIDS a lower priority, focusing time, effort, and money away from this President Bush-created initiative towards its own, ‘Global Health Initiative.’  Given this previous lack of commitment, and the vagueness of this new proposal, while we hope for the best, we remain concerned that this is more an exercise in public relations,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s President.

AHF’s concern came in the wake of a policy speech given by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the U.S. National Institutes of Health outside Washington in which she announced that the administration’s goal of an ‘AIDS-free generation’ is within reach via what she termed new advancements in prevention and treatment.  The stated goal is to use a combination of AIDS treatment, male circumcision, treatment to prevent to mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keep that generation AIDS-free throughout their lives.

However, “The preventive effects of treatment have been known for some time.  Despite this, the Obama administration has reduced the percentage on money it spends on AIDS treatment globally,” added Weinstein.  “More talk, without a concrete plan of action is cheap.  This speech outlined a broad, vague goal, with no real plan or ideas on how to actually get there.  If the administration is serious, here’s how you get there: stipulate that at least 50% of PEPFAR funds be designated for treatment, and cut administrative costs by limiting fund recipients to spending no more than 10% on such costs. With treatment costs now approximately $300 per patient annually, such actions could ensure that six million people would be on treatment by 2013—more lives saved and infections prevented at the same funding level as PEPFAR receives today.”

PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), the United States’ primary program to address AIDS globally, was the result of President Bush’s groundbreaking 2003 State of the Union pledge to bring two million HIV positive Africans and others into treatment and prevent seven million new HIV infections via a five-year, $15 billion US-funded program. It currently operates in 22 focus countries and claims to support antiretroviral treatment for 3.2 million people worldwide as of 2010.

“With treatment costs falling so much, and with the preventive effects of treatment now widely known, there is simply no reason for the administration not to drastically increase the number of people receiving treatment. Every person on treatment is a life saved, is a person who can work and support his family, and is an infection prevented,” said Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

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