Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Monday that the United States would prepare a “blueprint” to confront the global AIDS epidemic and realize her previously stated vision of an “AIDS-free generation.”
In a speech before attendees in D.C. at the 19th International AIDS Conference, Clinton said she directed U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby to develop the plan and said it would be unveiled before Dec. 1 on World AIDS Day.
“I have asked Ambassador Dr. Goosby to take the lead on developing and sharing our blueprint of the goals and objectives for the next phase of our effort and to release this blueprint by World AIDS Day this year,” Clinton said. “We want the next Congress, the next secretary of state, and all of our partners here at home and around the world to have a clear picture of everything we’ve learned and a roadmap that shows what we will contribute to achieving an AIDS-free generation.”
Clinton first articulated the idea of an “AIDS-free generation” during remarks she delivered on World AIDS Day last year.
A number of HIV/AIDS advocates praised the idea of a blueprint in the global fight against HIV/AIDS as they called for the strategy to include certain enumerated provisions.
Chris Collins, vice president of policy for amFAR, said he’s hoping the plan would articulate the way forward in confronting the global AIDS epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 25 million across the globe.
“When you want to accomplish a complex goal you need a clear plan of action,” Collins said. “Creation of a blueprint is an important step forward because it directs our planning, policy and funding toward achieving clear outcomes and goals and will help everyone engaged monitor progress toward an AIDS-free generation.”
In a joint statement, 65 advocacy and implementation organizations said the blueprint needs to contain several key points to succeed, such as defining specific outcome targets for HIV incidence, morbidity and mortality; requiring full transparency of U.S. government budgets; and requiring detailed annual reporting on progress.
During the same speech, Clinton unveiled five new funding streams aiming to target populations that are particularly affected by HIV/AIDS overseas, touting a “combination prevention” strategy of treatment and prevention.
The five new funding streams total $157 million:
• an additional $80 million to support approaches that ensure HIV-positive pregnant women receive treatment to protect themselves and prevent them from spreading the disease to their children and partners;
• an additional $40 million to support South Africa’s plans to provide voluntary medical male circumcisions for almost half a million boys and men in the next year;
• $15 million for implementation research to identify the specific interventions that are most effective for reaching key populations;
• $20 million to launch a challenge fund to support country-led plans to expand services for key populations; and
• a $2 million investment in the Robert Carr Civil Society Networks Fund to bolster the efforts of civil society groups in addressing key populations.
Clinton said keeping women in Africa with HIV healthy is important to keep them from transferring the disease to their unborn children, which she said the United States is committed to ending by 2015.
A number of female HIV/AIDS advocates at the conference called for greater attention to the disease’s impact on children. In sub-Saharan Africa, which has been particularly affected by AIDS, an estimated 60 percent of those living with HIV are women.
“When women are identified as HIV-positive and eligible for treatment, they are often referred to another clinic, one that may be too far away for them to reach,” Clinton said. “As a result, too many women never start treatment. Today, I am announcing that the United States will invest an additional $80 million to fill this gap. These funds will support innovative approaches to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women get the treatment they need to protect themselves, their babies and their workers.”
Clinton’s speech was highly anticipated among the estimated 25,000 people in attendance at the conference. Organizers sent attendees to overflow rooms a full half-hour before she came on stage because the large room in which she was set to speak was already filled to capacity.
Upon her arrival, Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation from attendees. But not everyone received her favorably.
A group of protesters could be heard shouting at the secretary as she approached the podium. They held up a sign calling on Clinton to take “Trans Pacific” action against AIDS — apparently out of concern of insufficient funds for trans people affected by AIDS overseas. Clinton responded, “What would an AIDS conference be without a little protesting? We understand that.”
Some HIV/AIDS advocates have criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to fight the global epidemic. The president’s budget request for fiscal year 2013 cuts half a billion dollars from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program established by President George W. Bush to confront the global epidemic, as the White House maintained the program is doing more with less because of the reduced cost of drugs.
Despite this proposed cut, Clinton emphasized new accomplishments for PEPFAR under the Obama administration, saying the program is funding 600,000 more people since December. She said this increase means PEPFAR is reaching nearly 4.5 million people and is on track to meet the administration’s goal of treating 6 million people by the end of 2013, which President Obama announced on World AIDS Day last year.
“Now since that time I’ve heard a few voices from people raising questions about America’s commitment to an AIDS-free generation, wondering whether we are really serious about achieving it,” Clinton said. “Well, I am here today to make it absolutely clear: the United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation. We will not back off, we will not back down, we will fight for the resources necessary to achieve this historic milestone.”
Additionally, Clinton said PEPFAR is reaching more than 370,000 women globally and has supported more than 400,000 male circumcisions, which has been shown to reduce HIV transmission, since December.
“You know and we want the world to know that this procedure reduces the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60 percent and for the rest of the man’s life, so the impact can be phenomenal,” Clinton said. “In Kenya and Tanzania, mothers asked for circumcision campaigns during school vacations so their teenage sons could participate. In Zimbabwe, some male lawmakers want to show their constituents how safe and virtually painless the procedure is, so they went to a mobile clinic and got circumcised. That’s the kind of leadership we welcome.”
But as she emphasized U.S. efforts in confronting the epidemic, Clinton also called for partner nations to step up their game to confront the disease in their own countries, saying reaching the goal “is a shared responsibility.”
“I spoke earlier about how the United States is supporting country ownership, but we also look to our partner countries and donors to do their part,” Clinton said. “They can follow the example of the last few years in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India and other countries who are able to provide more and better care for their own people because they are committing more of their own resources to HIV/AIDS. And partner countries also need to take steps like fighting corruption and making sure their systems for approving drugs are as efficient as possible.”
As part of this commitment, Clinton called on other countries to contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculous and Malaria. Obama’s most recent budget request affirms the administration’s commitment to provide $4 billion over three years to the fund, and Clinton said Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, the Gates Foundation and others have stepped up their efforts.
Paul Zeitz, vice president of policy for the D.C.-based ACT V: The End of AIDS, joined in the call for other countries to step up their efforts in confronting HIV/AIDS as he commended Clinton for announcing her plan to produce a blueprint in the global fight.
“As we all know, money is the oxygen for action for creating an AIDS-Free Generation,” Zeitz said. “Action speaks louder and we need to make sure that governments around the world step up to pay their fare share, including my own government. U.S. leadership in the global battle to end AIDS is an essential catalyst.”