By PHILIP HOROWITZ
On Sunday, the world paused to honor the millions of lives that have been lost since 1981 due to the AIDS pandemic. Each year on Dec. 1, events are held around the world by those living with AIDS and their advocates, along with politicians, celebrities, and health care providers, to celebrate the achievements made in the fight against AIDS and to remember those we have lost.
Dec. 1 is also the day the American government uses to reaffirm its position on the fight against AIDS. In years past, President Obama has committed to achieving an “AIDS-free generation,” but this year his words must be backed up with a promise with numbers. He must make good on his commitment to ending AIDS by agreeing to increase access to HIV treatments, and he must follow through on this commitment in his 2015 fiscal year budget.
When former President George W. Bush was in office, he created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which acted as a bilateral funding program from the United States. This emergency plan, along with the multi-lateral Global Fund to end AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, have helped change the landscape of AIDS globally, especially in developing nations. PEPFAR has been the most successful program, both within its framework and implementation, to address a single disease.
Combined, these two programs have been able to put millions of infected individuals on effective treatments, and they have provided prevention and care for many more. It is clear that these programs are effective, and with an increase in funding they can be the mode by which we can end this terrible pandemic. By putting more people on treatments globally, we can reduce the infection rate and end AIDS.
If we scale up these programs, there could be zero new infections, globally, within the next 30 years. Let me make sure that registers, if we act now, the AIDS pandemic could be over before we die.
PEPFAR has put about 6 million people on HIV treatment drugs. In order to see the end of this pandemic, President Obama should commit to increasing treatment levels by putting 12 million people on treatment by 2016. If he makes this commitment, we could see the end of AIDS in fewer than 30 years, and truly have an “AIDS-free generation.”
Philip Horowitz is president of the George Washington University’s chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign.